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B. F. Skinner

Burrhus Frederic “B. F.” Skinner was born on 20th March 1904 in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. He was born to Grace and William Skinner who was a lawyer. Skinner attended Hamilton College in New York and was aimed at becoming an accomplished writer after his studies. He became an atheist after he was assuaged by his teacher of the fear of hell that had been initially described by his grandmother. With the intention of becoming a writer after College studies, he joined the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity that facilitated him to write a school paper. His atheist beliefs made him criticize the Christian school that he was attending as he wrote the school paper. In 1926, he joined Harvard University after receiving his B.A in English Literature. After graduating from Harvard University successfully, he spent one year at his parents’ home in Scranton with his mind focused on becoming an accomplished writer. He even made many attempts to become a writer of fiction while in Scranton. The encounter with John B. Watson’s Behaviorism motivated him into the graduate study in the field of psychology and led to the development of his own operant conditioning theory. In 1931, Skinner received a PHD from Harvard University and remained there to work in the department of research.

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Skinner then taught at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis before moving to the University of Indiana where he chaired the department of psychology from 1946-1947 with a high level of success. Later on Skinner moved back to the Harvard University where he decided to complete his career. Earlier on 1936, he married Yvonne Blue with whom they had two daughters named Julie and Debra. Skinner was tagged a controversial figure in the field of psychology and was depicted in many ways by different people. For instance, some people referred to him as evil, hateful, warm, and extremely enthusiastic about everything in life. On 18th August 1990, he died of leukemia and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Research asserts that he referred to his brand of behaviorism as radical behaviorism because of its current means involved in coming up with the entire concept of behavior. His theory seeks to investigate and understand behavior as an overall function of the environmental histories of the reinforcing consequences. Unlike other behaviorist theories, Skinner’s theory does not accommodate private events such as individual thinking, observable emotions, and the perceptions of different individuals in life. According to Skinner, behavior is maintained from one condition to another with similar consequences occurring in these situations. He asserted that behaviors are normal conditions that are immensely affected by the surrounding consequences.

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According to Skinners behavioral theory, reinforcement is a key concept in the promotion of the behavior of individuals. Reinforcement is significant because it shapes and controls the behavior of individuals hence ensuring that the desired response is achieved. In his behavioral theory, Skinner observed that positive reinforcement strengthens the behavior of individuals through the application of significant events such as praise after the performance of a given event. On the other hand, negative reinforcement is the strengthening of behavior through the elimination of some aversive events such as punishment. Skinner came up with schedules of reinforcement that highlighted three key significant levels of reinforcement. Firstly, he emphasized on continuous reinforcement of behavior, which involves constant delivery of actions for reinforcement. This approach necessitated for constant checking of the behavior of individuals and the application of reinforcement each time individuals were deemed to have performed excellently according to the expectations. Secondly, Skinner pointed out that variable reinforcement could also play a significant role in the determination of behavior. This method entails the use of reinforcement after the set period. This means that reinforcement was to be applied only at the moment it was required. Lastly, he asserted that the ratio reinforcement could be vital in influencing the behavior of different individuals.

Research indicates that he based his observation of behavior on his initial tests with pigeons. The assertion that behavior is influenced by the consequences that individuals are exposed to meant that the environment was a significant factor in determining the behavior of different people. His behavioral theory has been significantly applied in the effective functioning of organizations all over the globe. The Skinnerian approach to behavior pointed out some key steps that organizations are supposed to adhere to in order to bring about positive responses within their working environment. Skinner observed that in order to achieve effective behavior, organizations should not use punishment as the key solution to attaining positive responses. More so, he stated that reinforcement should be applied regularly in the achievement of positive responses while negative responses can be ignored. According to Skinner, the time lag for the reinforcement of positive reinforcement must be minimized and any gaps must be addressed through verbal mediation. He also asserted that organizations could apply the desired behavior frequently through a variable proportion basis in order to determine the response levels of individuals. Organizations should also ascertain contingencies that are considered as positive or negative among individuals as this would help in the correction of behaviors. Lastly, Skinner held that organizations would ensure proper responses by clearly outlining the principles associated with positive responses among individuals.

In the world of invention, Skinner invented the Air Crib that was aimed at helping parents who had crying babies. He though that the Air Crib would help parents who were awakened constantly by their crying babies due to cold conditions, need for sheets, and other essential clothing. This invention was extremely critical and was perceived a cruel way of handling innocent babies. Research indicates that this invention had some level of success and the crib was manufactured by some companies that were aimed at witnessing success in the care of babies. Research asserts that the invention of this device was reflective of his continuous ability to invent more useful devices in the lives of individuals. He also invented the operant conditioning chamber that was used to measure the response levels of different organisms and their orderly interactions with their surroundings. With the operant conditioning chamber, Skinner discovered that the response of an organism is dependent on its consequences. Research asserts that he also invented the cumulative recorder that is used to record the behavior of organisms automatically. The cumulative recorder was used in the Skinner box to record the behavior of rats as they interacted with their environment. Lastly, Skinner is also famous for inventing the teaching machine that was used significantly to administer instructions to organisms as they interact with the environment.

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Research asserts that his political writings emphasized his hopes of preventing humans from destroying themselves through their behavior. He asserted that political control was both aversive and non-aversive aimed at having control over the population. He significantly supported the continued use of positive reinforcement as the means of coercion. He emphasized this idea with reference to Rousseau’s novel On Education. Skinner was associated with different levels of controversy in the different areas of life that he ventured into. He is still celebrated in the field of psychology due to his vital contributions to the issue of measuring the behavior of individuals at different instances.

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