behavioranalysishistory / Skinner, Burrhus Frederic
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Skinner, Burrhus Frederic (redirected from Skinner_BF)



Burrhus Frederic Skinner


(March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990)

Born and raised in Susquehanna, PA


Primary Areas of Study

Operant conditioning

Radical behaviorism

Verbal behavior



Cumulative Recorder

Operant Conditioning Chamber

Teaching Machine


Pigeon-guided Missile

Project Pigeon



A brief biography at B.F. Skinner Foundation 

NPR's All Things Considered 1990 Interview with B.F. Skinner (shortly before he died)

Biography by Christa Swenson      

A fascinating episode of The Open Mind from 1974 entitled ‘The Limits of Human Freedom’ with BF Skinner as one of the guest contributors.

An Interview with "Mr. Behaviorist"

Will success spoil B. F. Skinner? an interview

The Behavior of Organisms: A Blog Entry


Selected Papers 

Catania, A. C. (2003). B. F. Skinner's science and human behavior: Its antecedents and its consequences. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 80, 313-320. (available online here)


Epstein, R.Lanza, R. P., & Skinner, B. F. (1980). Symbolic communication between two pigeons (Columba livia domestica). Science, 207, 543-545. (available online here)


Epstein, R., Lanza, R. P., & Skinner, B. F. (1981). “Self-awareness” in the pigeon. Science, 212, 695-696. (available online here)


Epstein, R., & Skinner, B. F.  (1981). The spontaneous use of memoranda by pigeons. Behaviour Analysis Letters, 1, 241-246(available online here)


"100 Years of B.F. Skinner" article


Pigeon in a Pelican - American Psychologist


Keller, F. S. (1990). Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990) (a thank-you). Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 54, 155-158. 


Peterson, Gail (2004). A Day of Great Illumination: B.F. Skinner's Discovery of Shaping. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 82, 317 -328. [An interesting historical article that describes Skinner's discovery in a flour mill in Minneapolis in 1943 of what he would later term 'shaping.' Available online here.]


Skinner, B. F. (1981). Pavlov’s influence on psychology in America. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 17, 242- 245.



Selected Books 

Skinner, B. F. (1965). Science and human behavior. New York: The Free Press(available online here)  


Skinner, B. F. (2003). The technology of teaching. Acton: Copley Publishing Group.


Skinner, B. F. (1974). About behaviorism. New York: Vintage Books.

This is a fascinating book on the basics of behavior analysis. It's aimed at the lay reader, and laid out as both an argument for behaviorism and against what Skinner called 'mentalism'. The introduction lists twenty myths about behavior analysis, and Skinner then discusses each of these myths in turn, answering critics and comparing behaviorism and mentalism. The last chapter reviews everything discussed in the book in light of these myths, showing how they don't hold up under examination. 


Skinner, B. F. (2005). Walden two. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.


Skinner, B. F. (2002). Beyond freedom & dignity. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.


Skinner, B.F. (1985). Particulars of My Life. New York: New York University Press.

[Part 1 of Skinner's Autobiography]


Skinner, B.F. (1985). The Shaping of a Behaviorist. New York: New York University Press.

[Part 2 of Skinner's Autobiography]


Skinner, B.F. (1985). A Matter of Consequences. New York: New York University Press.

[Part 3 of Skinner's Autobiography]


Skinner, B. F. (1972). Cumulative record: a selection of papers, 3rd edition. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.


Skinner, B. F. (1969). Contingencies of reinforcement: A Theoretical Analysis. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.


Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.


Skinner, B. F., and Ferster, Charles B. (1957). Schedules of reinforcement. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.


Slater, L. Opening Skinner's box: Great psychological experiments of the twentieth century. New York: WW Norton.

The first chapter of this book is a light-hearted and very entertaining view of the work of Skinner. The chapter includes an interview with Skinner’s daughter and helps to dispel some of the more bizarre rumors about his life.


Stevenson, L., & Haberman, D. L. (1998). Ten theories of human nature (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

This book offers, as its title suggests, ten theories of human nature, including the theory of B. F. Skinner. Each theory is outlined in terms of four main elements of structure: '1. a background theory about the world; 2. a basic theory of the nature of human beings; 3. a diagnosis of what is wrong with us; and 4. a prescription for putting it right.' (p. 9) [Note: There have been at least two further editions of the book, but this particular edition is the one with which this user is most familiar.]





Eve Segal interviews BF Skinner (1988) -  part 1   part 2   part 3   part 4   part 5   part 6 

B.F. Skinner: A Fresh Appraisal (narrated by Murray Sidman)

A toast to Fred Keller and B.F. Skinner with Joe Brady, A. Charles Catania, James Holland, Victor Laties, and Murray Sidman

Skinner defines operant conditioning

Skinner discusses Teaching Machines

Keynote Address at the 98th Annual American Psychological Association Convention (1990)

Skinner on reinforcement

Shaping demonstration

Pigeon ping pong

B. F. Skinner Lectures Psychiatrists and Psychologists. Part 1/7

Murray Sidman discusses the work of  B.F. Skinner  

Skinner on Reinforcement and Psychology

Skinner's address at APA (August 10, 1990)


Jack Michael and Dick Malott speaking on the legacy of B.F. Skinner




Visiting Lecture part 2/7 - Questions about his daughters and the Air Crib







Voice Recordings

Debate with Carl Rogers - The Duck Story



Charles B. Ferster

Robert Epstein


Intellectual Ancestry

Hamilton College, B.A. (English literature)

Harvard University, Ph.D. (psychology) 

Intellectual influences flow chart


Additional Information 

Herrnstein, R. J., Dews, P.B., Estes, W. K., Morse, W. H. & Quine, W. V. O. (1994). Memorial minute for B. F. Skinner. The Behavior Analyst, 17, 2-5. (available online here)


Project Pigeon and ORCON 


Wikipedia page


Awards and Honors

1966 -  Thorndike Award

The award is given only to living recipients.  Second, the award is for career achievements, not for one or a few pieces of excellent research.  Third, the award is for research in educational psychology, not research in psychology in general, nor for research in education in general.  Fourth, the award is
for research in the best tradition of educational psychology. That is, the award is for original, scientific, empirically based research that contributes significantly to knowledge, theory, or practice in educational psychology.  Research consisting primarily of critiques of other researchers' works, reviews of research, and preparation of textbooks would not qualify by this criterion.  But scientific production and testing of theory, methods of teaching or learning, instructional products, tests, evaluation techniques, and the like would qualify by this criterion.

Division of Educational Psychology of the American Psychological Association
Thorndike Award Recipients


1968 - National Medal of Science


Jan. 1972 - Given Gold Medal Award by the American Psychological Foundation (a part of the American Psychological Association) in recognition of a distinguished and lengthy record of scientific and scholarly contributions to the field of psychology by a senior American psychologist. A short biographical statement appeared in the Jan. 1972 issue of American Psychologist (the APA journal). The award carried with it a stipend of $1,000. The statement and the award citation were both written by Fred Keller.


1972 - Skinner awarded Humanist of the Year award from the American Humanist Association. Click here to hear the audio of his acceptance speech, titled Behaviorism is a Humanistic Psychology. 


1984 - Distinguished Member, Psi Chi National Council

Persons who "have national or international reputations because of contributions made to psychology and Psi Chi" in the areas of research, service, and/or teaching, and who have been nominated and approved by Psi Chi's National Council are extended the prestigious title of Distinguished Member.


1990 - William James Fellow Award


1997 - AHRD Award

The "Academy Awards" is the distinguished awards program in the Human Resource Development profession that is sponsored by the Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD). These awards are for scholarly professionals who have made significant contributions to the vision of leading the profession through research: Burrhus F. Skinner studied at Harvard and taught there from1931-36 and from 1947-74 with the time between at the University of Minnesota. A leading behaviorist, he was a proponent of operant conditioning and programmed instruction. His main scientific works include The Behavior of Organisms (1938), and Verbal Behavior (1957). His social and political views reached a wider public through Walden Two and Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971).



Quotes about Skinner 

“To several audiences before, I have suggested that Skinner could be characterized as a unique combination of the figures of Thomas A. Edison, Jesus Christ, and Bertrand Russell, and I stand by that characterization here, intending no disrespect for any of the four parties named.”

-Norman Guttman, American Psychologist, May 1977, 321 – 328.


Quotes by Skinner

"A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying."


"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten."


"Give me a child and I'll shape him into anything."


"I did not direct my life. I didn't design it. I never made decisions. Things always came up and made them for me. That's what life is."


If you're old, don't try to change yourself, change your environment."


"Society attacks early, when the individual is helpless."


"We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading."