Contributions of Psychology
Skinner was a prolific author, publishing nearly 200 articles and more than 20 books. In a 2002 survey of psychologists, he was identified as the most influential 20th-century psychologist. While behaviorism is no longer a dominant school of thought, he work in operant conditioning remains vital today. Mental health professionals often utilize operant techniques when working with clients, teachers frequently use reinforcement and punishment to shape behavior in the classroom, and animal trainers rely heavily on these techniques to train dogs and other animals.
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born and raised in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. He earned his BA in English and hoped to be a writer. However, this profession did not work out, and at the age of 24, he applied and was excepted to the psychology graduate program at Harvard. Here he happened to meet William Crozier in the physiology department. Young Skinner was taken by Crozier, an ardent advocate for animal studies and behavioral measures, and began to tailor his studies according to Crozier's highly functional, behaviorist framework. Working across disciplines, he integrated methods and theories from psychology and physiology and developed new ways of recording and analyzing data. As he experimented with rats, Skinner noticed that the responses he was recording were influenced not only by what preceded them but also by what followed them. The common behavioral approach at the time was influenced by the work of Pavlov and Watson, both of whom focused on the stimulus-response paradigm. Their form of classical conditioning focused on what occurred prior to a response and how these stimuli affected learning. Skinner, however, focused on what occurred after a behavior, noting that the effects or repercussions of an action could influence an organism's learning. By 1931, he had his PhD in psychology and was well on his way to developing operant...