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B.F. Skinner (1904–1990)

skinner2Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born and raised in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania and received a bachelor’s degree in English from Hamilton College in New York. Skinner enrolled in the experimental psychology program at Harvard and studied under E.G. Boring, earning his masters degree in 1930 and PhD in 1931. In 1936, he began his academic career at the University of Minnesota; then, in 1945, he took a position as chairman of the psychology department at Indiana University. In 1948, however, Harvard offered him a position, which he accepted, and he remained there for the rest of his life. Skinner died of leukemia in 1990.

While Skinner was at Harvard, he was heavily influenced by the work of John B. Watson. From this influence, Skinner dedicated his life’s work to studying the relationship between reinforcement and observable behavior. Throughout his career, he insisted that psychology be a scientific, empirically driven discipline. He is considered by many to be one of the most important figures in twentieth century psychology, and his contribution to both clinical and experimental psychology is evident in the work of psychologists who followed his lead, and to this day, extend his work in associative learning research. The principles of reinforcement that he outlined were built on by clinical psychologists and applied to the conceptualization and treatment of mental disorders. The application of behaviorism to clinical psychology was not short-lived, as empirically supported treatments for anxiety disorders (e.g., panic disorder, simple phobia) and child conduct problems are based upon behavioral principles.

Cicarelli, S.K., & White, J.N. (2015). PSYCHOLOGY, AN EXPLORATION (3rd ed): PEARSON

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