On this day Burrhus Frederick Skinner, an American psychologist, died. His “pioneering” work in experimental psychology promoted behaviorism – shaping behavior through positive and negative reinforcement and operant conditioning. The “Skinner box” he used in experiments from 1930 remains infamous. To investigate the learning processes of animals, he observed their behaviour in a simple box with a lever which, when activated by the animal, would give a reward (or punishment). The reward, such as pellets of food or water, acts as a primary reinforcer. He observed the behaviour of animals adapted to utilize the opportunity for a reward. He extended his theories to the behaviour of humans, as a form of social engineering. In other words, he reduced people’s motivations to a linear mechanism as simple as a pigeon’s desire to have a pellet of food. For Skinner, psychological context was completely irrelevant. People – like pigeons – could be programmed with rewards, and their psychological state was beside the point. Nevertheless, his behaviourist models have come to dominate all aspects of the Western psyche. – (All Psych / Wiki / Chomsky / The Psychology of B.F. Skinner / Teachers.net)
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