Ian K. Connelly
Oklahoma State University
B.F. Skinner’s Contribution to Modern Psychology
As I began to study the history and beginning of psychology there was one man who stood out to me clearly as a powerful force of influence and contributor to the direction psychology has taken in its still very young life. What does it mean to be a major influential contributor to the science of psychology? This man shows us with his groundbreaking theories, inventions and experiments as well as his over 200 books and articles on the field of psychology. He is Burrhus Frederic Skinner and he is one of the reasons psychology is the profound and crucial science that it is today. (New World Encyclopedia contributors, 2008)
B.F. Skinner was born in 1904 in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. His early life consisted of his efforts to become a fictional writer. He attended Hamilton College where he received a B.A. in English literature in 1926. Afterward he spent some time living with his parents attempting to write fictional books. (Cherry, 2013) It was during this time that he began to wonder about how an author was supposed to understand the behaviors of the characters he portrayed without knowing what psychological processes and thoughts lie beneath. His research led him to discover the work of John Broadus Watson who proposed behaviorism for the first time. (Shacter, Gilbert & Wegner, 2011) This seemed to interest him much more than fictional writing did so he applied for the psychology graduate program at Harvard University where he received a doctorate in experimental psychology in 1931. In 1936 he began his teaching career at Michigan University and was married in the same year. He finished his first book, “Behavior of Organisms” two years later. (Browse Biography, 2011) Throughout the rest of his life Skinner made breakthrough after breakthrough in the field of psychology and behaviorism. In 1945 he became the...