B. F. Skinner’s b-day

Today is the anniversary of the birth of B. F. Skinner, the eminent student of behavior. Professor Skinner, who was born 20 March 1904 in Susquehanna, PA (US), changed the way that people understand behavior first by conducting micro-analyses of the effects of immediate environmental conditions on longer-term patterns in behavior and second by explaining how those effects of environmental conditions made mincemeat of person-in-the-street psychology.

Contrary to popular mis-perception, Professor Skinner did not argue that all behavior was learned from stimulus-response (or S→R) relationships. That view is mistaken on two counts: He both acknowledged the importance of genetic contributions to behavior and he showed that lots of learning is, in fact, a result of the consequences of behavior (R→S relationships).

Based on Professor Skinner’s analyses of behavior and society, behaviorism leads pretty directly to a rejection of mentalism and its kissing cousin, deism. We are left with a scientific perspective on unraveling the not-so-mysterious, but-still-challenging subject matter of human behavior. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth doing, because that improvement in explaining behavior will provide the basis for a more humane and human world.

Link to the B. F. Skinner Foundation. Link to the 2007 bd announcement.


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Filed under Atheism, Equity, Non-violence, Peace, Science, Skepticism

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