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B.F. Skinner

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B.F. Skinner

American psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner, or B.F. Skinner, was a strong critic of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical approach to psychology. Skinner believed that studying the unconscious mind was a waste of time to finding out why a person acted a certain way and that only what a person actually did mattered. Greatly influenced by behaviorists John B. Watson and Ivan Pavlov, Skinner also concentrated on observable behaviors that could be explained scientifically.

B.F. Skinner developed radical behavioralism, a subcategory of behavioralism. Radical behaviorism is the belief that everything that a person does is a behavior, including their thoughts and feelings. He also established operant conditioning to contrast classical conditioning. Operant conditioning was based on the idea that a person will behave a certain way according to the consequences associated with that behavior, such as reinforcements or punishments. The consequence will determine whether or not the behavior is likely to occur again. In other words, if a person does something good and is rewarded, they are more likely to do more good things. Skinner did not believe in using punishment and found that it was unsuccessful at controlling behavior. Usually, it only led to a temporary behavior change and resulted in the person trying to avoid the punishment instead of avoiding the behavior that caused the punishment in the first place. Skinner's primary example of this was the existence of criminal behavior despite prison. He stated that if prison were a successful deterrent to criminal's behavior, there would be no more crimes because of the risk of incarceration. Yet Skinner observed that criminals still repeat their previous crimes but instead try to avoid being caught and consequently, punishment. He stated that prison does not stop criminal behavior; it only makes a criminal smarter at avoiding the resulting punishment. Skinner's belief was that reinforcements, positive and negative (which is not the same as punishment), were more effective at producing long term behavior changes.

In the 1930s, Skinner invented an operant conditioning chamber, better known as the "Skinner Box."



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