Born an American, B. F. Skinner is one of history’s most compelling psychologists to have ever walked the earth. Skinner was an author, inventor, and a psychologist who had a passion for his line of work. Although Skinner is deceased, his legacy continues to influence how people learn in the classroom and in the laboratory. During Skinner’s lifetime, he was recognized for his research and his theories regarding the study of behavior; his work reflects his thoughts on operant conditioning, punishment, reinforcement, and superstitious behavior.
B. F. Skinner conducted studies on operant conditioning; he argued that a living organism’s behavior is stimulated by what that particular organism encounters within a given environment. Skinner focused on this area because he wanted to focus more on what happens externally rather than internally. Skinner also created the Skinner box; it was a tool that helped him with many of his experiments in the lab. Morris & Maisto (2005) informs, “Many researchers interested in operant conditioning make extensive use of the Skinner box, a device named after B. F. Skinner, who pioneered the study of operant conditioning.” “A Skinner box for rats is small, with solid walls.” (p. 202).
Skinner also believed that punishment can be used to prevent recurrences of a particular behavior or action. According to Morris & Maisto, Skinner believed that punishment should be enforced in order to change an individual’s behavior pattern; he also felt that reinforcement was essential to proper behavior as well. Morris & Maisto (2005) reports, “Although all reinforcers (both positive and negative) increase the likelihood that a behavior will occur again, punishment is any event whose presence decreases the likelihood that ongoing behavior will occur.” “Reinforcement always strengthens behavior; punishment weakens it.” (p. 221). Skinner also came up with the idea of superstitious behavior. Superstition is the belief that something will happen or not happen if a certain action or process recurs. Skinner maintained that people and animals have learned to associate learned behavior with a stimulus in order to determine when an action or movement should occur. B. F. Skinner was a great psychologist who worked hard to make a difference in the field of psychology; this tribute to him was written in admiration of his work. I think that B. F. Skinner was an amazing intellect with dreams to make a change in America.
Morris, C., & Maisto, A., (2005). Psychology: An Introduction (12th edition). pp. 202-
221. Prentice-Hall. Retrieved March 5, 2010.