Hey guys! I just wanna share to you my recent report on my Advanced Theories of Personality class. It's about BF Skinner and his contributions to Psychology. In case your studying his theory I think this can help.

Credits goes to Feist & Feist "Theories of Personality"

Here's the Summary of my report:


  • In the early years of the 20th century, behaviorism emerged
  • Early pioneers of behaviorism – Edward Lee Thorndike and John B. Watson
  • Skinner is known for Behavioral Analysis and Radical Behaviorism
  • As a determinist he rejected the notion of free will – behavior is lawfully determined and can be studied scientifically
  • As an environmentalist he stated that psychology must not explain behavior on the basis of physiological and constitutional components of the organism but rather on the basis of environmental stimuli
  • Functional Analysis – there is no need to talk about mechanism operating with in the organism. Behavior can be explained and controlled purely by the manipulation of the environment that contains the behaving organism and there is no need to take the organism apart or make many inferences about the events that are going on inside the organism

Fred’s Timeline

March 20, 1904          
v     Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born on Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, the 1st child of William Skinner and Grace Marge Burrhus Skinner
v     Fred grew up in a comfortable upper middle class home

-          when he was 2 ½ years old his brother  Edward/Ebbie was born and he felt that his parents loved his brother more
-          as a child he was inclined to music and literature and he was interested in becoming a professional writer
-          Ebbie died when he was in 1st year college making it hard for his parents to let him go
-          his parents wanted him to become a “family boy”    
-          he finished a bachelor’s degree in English at Hamilton College in Clinton New York
-          he wrote to his father that he wanted to stay home working at nothing except writing
-          but nothing happened which leads to his first “dark year” – identity confusion which lasted for 18 months
-          he started to look for a new career – he became interested in Psychology after reading works of Pavlov and Watson
-          Harvard accepted him as a graduate student in Psychology

-          Fred finished his Ph.D.
-          He received an invitation from the National Research Council to continue his research at Harvard

-          his fellowship ended and he had to look for a job but then he was selected as a Junior fellow and continue his Experiments

-          he was again looking for a job and found a teaching and research position at the University of Minnesota were he stayed for 9 years
-          he married Yvonne Blue

-          their first child “Julie” was born
-          he was also able to publish his first book: “The Behavior of Organism”
-          he started 2 ventures: Project Pigeon – pigeon guided missiles and Baby tender for their second baby

-          their second daughter Deborah or “Debbie” was born
-          he prepared a film for government officials showing them pigeons that can track a moving target but some of them laughed about it
-          this leads to his second “identity crisis” at the age of 40 – brought about his struggle to write a book and his negative experiences over Project Pigeon and Baby tender and the fact that he is still dependent on his father for financial help

-          Skinner wrote “Walden Two” – Utopian novel that portrayed a society in which problems are solved through behavioral engineering – benchmark of Skinner’s professional career

-          he returned to Harvard and taught in the college of Education and wrote two books

-          he retired as a professor in Psychology but remained professor emeritus
-          he wrote 6 more books on human behavior making become “America’s Best-known Living Psychologist”

August 18, 1990        
-          Skinner died of Leukemia – one week after his emotional address at the APA Convention
-          he received “Citation for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology” – only one who received that award

  • Edward L. Thorndike’s law of effect – Skinner agreed with Thorndike that the effects of rewards are more predictable than the effects of punishment in shaping behavior
  • John B. Watson – like Watson he insisted that human behavior should be studied scientifically

The Development of Personality

According to Skinner human behavior is shaped by three forces:
  • Natural Selection
  • Cultural Practices
  • History of Reinforcement

Natural Selection
  • Natural selection plays an important role in our personality.
  • Behaviors that were beneficial to the species tend to survive throughout history while those that were idiosyncratically reinforcing tend to drop out.
  • He suggested that the process of evolution shapes the innate behaviors of a species just as an individual’s learned behaviors are shaped by the environment.

Cultural Practices
“People do not observe particular practices in order that the group will be more likely to survive; they observe them because that induced their members to do so survived and transmitted them.”

l      Two Types of Conditioning
l      Classical conditioning
l      Operant conditioning

Classical Conditioning – pairing a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus a number of times until it is capable of bringing about previously unconditioned response called conditioned response

Operant Conditioning – the immediate reinforcement of a response; the organism first does something then it is reinforced by the environment

Reinforcement – increases the probability that the same behavior will occur again

  • Effects of Reinforcement:
    • It strengthens the behavior
    • It rewards the person

Two Types of Reinforcement:
  • Positive reinforcement – any stimulus that can increase the probability that a given behavior will occur
  • Negative reinforcement – removal of an aversive stimulus that will also increase the probability that the preceding behavior will occur

Schedules of Reinforcement

Continuous Schedule
- organism is reinforced for every response

Intermittent Schedule
-produce responses that are more resistant to extinction
  • Fixed-ratio – the organism is reinforced intermittently according to the number of responses it makes
  • Variable-ratio – reinforces after the nth response on the average
  • Fixed-interval – reinforced for the 1st response following a designated period of time
  • Variable-interval – one of which the organism is reinforced after the lapse of random or varied period of time

The presence of aversive stimuli; impose to prevent people from acting in a particular way

Punishing Stimulus – an aversive stimulus, which when occurring after an operant response, decrease the likelihood of a response

Effects of Punishment:
·         Suppress the behavior
·         Conditioning of a negative feeling
·         Spread of its effects

Social Control – written rules, laws or customs of a culture

Societies exercise control over its members through 4 principal methods:
  • Operant conditioning
  • Describing contingencies
  • Deprivation and satiation
  • Physical restraint


According to Skinner and Vaughan
  • Use of physical aids to alter environment
  • Change their environment
  • Arrange environment to escape from aversive stimuli
  • Take drugs
  • Simply do something else

The Unhealthy Behavior
Counteracting Strategies
l      Escape
l      Revolt
l      Use passive resistance

l      Psychotherapy is one of the chief obstacles blocking psychology’s attempt to become scientific

l      Shaping behavior has impact on how therapy works


Post a Comment

Hi! I'd be glad to help you out, just leave me a message below!