B.F. Skinner at the Harvard Psychology Department, circa 1950. B.F. Skinner at Harvard circa 1950 by Silly rabbit - self-made (by User:Silly rabbit). Updated in the Gimp by User:Michaelrayw2. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
"I Was Not a Lab Rat" Read his daughter Deborah Skinner's essay as she sets the record straight about being the baby in the box.
Behaviorism Tutorial Canada's open university, Athabasca University, presents these free online tutorials about behaviorism.
Brief Biography Skinner's works and life.
Classical Conditioning These Basic Concepts in Classical Conditioning Web pages are based on a lecture provided by R.W.Kentridge of Durham University, UK.
Classical conditioning by Steve Booth-Butterfield of West Virginia University.
Dogs Like Treats, But Here’s What Really Gets Their Tails Wagging It’s being able to control their own outcomes according to a study published in Animal Cognition and summarized here for The Huffington Post. According to the researchers, The experimental animals in our study were excited not only by the expectation of a reward, but also about realizing that they themselves could control their access to the reward. Posted June 16, 2014.
e-Textbook From the electronic textbook created for undergraduate and graduate courses in Personality Theories by George Boeree of Shippensburg University.
Little Albert Lost and Found Have you ever wondered what happened to Little Albert, the baby who was conditioned by John Watson to fear a white laboratory rat? Well, psychologist Hall P. Beck does some sleuthing and discovers who psychology's most famous research participant was and writes about his experience in the American Psychologist, Volume 64(7), October 2009, 605-614.
B. F. Skinner Obituary B. F. Skinner, who studied human and animal behavior in ingenious experiments and hoped that his findings would foster creativity and curtail repression, died Saturday at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. He was 86 years old and lived in Cambridge. From The New York Times, August 20, 1990
Positive Reinforcement Tutorial Learn the concept of positive reinforcement by taking this web-based overview. Provides illustrative examples and non-examples of key concepts and analysis of each to facilitate learning.
The World's First Look at Shaping: B. F. Skinner's Gutsy Gamble Gail B. Peterson of The Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies retraces Skinner's first experiments with shaping the behavior of pigeons (opens in PDF format).
Science Odyssey A very brief overview of Skinner's life and major ideas from the PBS show Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries.
B. F. Skinner at the APA Annual Convention 1990 Behavioral psychologist Dr. B. F. Skinner presented this keynote address at the American Psychological Association's 1990 Annual Convention. In Dr. Skinner's last public appearance, he expresses his belief that the proper role for psychological science is the analysis of behavior. He speaks about the path psychology has followed over the years, from early introspection methods to three kinds of variation and selection, including natural selection, the evolution of operant conditioning, and the evolution of culture. August 10, 1990. (in English with Spanish subtitles). Runs 20:56.
B.F. Skinner Foundation This website calls itself the authoritative site for information about B . F. Skinner and the science he initiated. Includes international resources, a downloadable self-instruction program on The Analysis of Behavior, audio, video, photos, an equipment exchange, PDF books, DVDs, and soon a chat room with experts.
Skinner's Utopia: Panacea, or Path to Hell? To mark the release of Skinner's book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, Time magazine presented this overview of Skinner's life and theory, his controversial book, and what it means for modern society. While some of the references are dated (e.g. President Nixon), the questions raised by both Skinner and his opponents are as relevant as ever for our time. Originally published Monday, September 20, 1971.
Walden Two The homepage of the successful Los Horcones community in Mexico, founded in 1973, based on Skinnerian principles (entire site is available in Spanish, English and French).
When Does A Consciousness Test Not Test for Consciousness? Describes the classic Mirror Test and the controversy behind it, most notably from B. R. Skinner, and questions if the test really measures self-awareness or just good training. Includes a video of a pigeon undergoing the mirror test. By Chelsea Wald for the science blog Nautilus, November 24, 2014.
Assignments, Exercises, and Activities
Conditioning at Mickey D'sWhat do parents do, at a fast food restaurant, to encourage desirable behaviors and discourage undesirable behaviors? Are the principles of operant conditioning being used? Check out Raymond Rogoway's clever assignment for understanding and applying principles conditioning.
Positive Reinforcement: A Self-Instructional Exercise Athabasca University devised this on-line exercise to teach students the concept of positive reinforcement and also to provide an idea of the kind of self-instructional exercises used in many Athabasca University course packages
Skinner, B.F.: That's My Theory! Sigmund Freud and two other personality psychologists -- Skinner and Maslow -- are guests on this online game show developed by PBS. Learn about all three theorists through the answers they give.
George H. Mead (1934) Mead, G. H. (1934) Mind Self and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist (Edited by Charles W. Morris). Chicago: University of Chicago.
The Origins of Cognitive Thought Chapter one from Recent Issues in the Analysis of Behavior, 1989, Merrill Publishing Company.
Why I am Not A Cognitive Psychologist. From Skinner, B. F. (1977). Behaviorism, 5, pp. 1-10. The complete essay follows a brief introduction.
John Watson (c.1922): Philosophical essays presented to John Watson From The Internet Archive, which is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public. Includes a bibliography of publications by Watson (p.343-346)
Examples and Illustrations
Discriminative Stimuli This hilarious video clip labeled "Why waste a temper tantrum if nobody is around to see it" can illustrate discriminative stimuli (thanks to Edward I. Pollak, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, for pointing this out to the PsychTeach discussion list).
Pavlov's Dog. The Nobel Prize Organization hosts an informative web site on Nobel Prize winners which includes educational games. Since Ivan Petrovich Pavlov won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904, the site has a game to illustrate principles of classical conditioning. Note: if you find the graphics too simplistic, stick around until the end for the theoretical explanation.
The Pavlovian Response to Seeing Birthday Announcements on Facebook Mike Masnick discusses an "experiment" conducted by David Plotz of Slate magazine. Plotz noted that well-wishers responded automatically when they saw that a friend was having a birthday on Facebook.
The Perfected Self Writer David Freedman describes how B. F. Skinner's Behavior Modification work, once maligned by the world, is enjoying a resurgence in popularity thanks to smartphone apps which apply Skinner's principles to help people lose weight and keep it off. From the Atlantic Monthly, June 2012.
Reinforcement This award-winning commercial from Europe can be used to illustrate many principles of conditioning including positive and negative reinforcement, partial reinforcement, and extinction (thanks to Edward I. Pollak, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, for pointing this out to the PsychTeach discussion list).
Lectures and Lecture Notes
Lecture by Paul Bloom Yale University now has many courses avaible in video, audio, and written form as part of their Open Yale program. Includes reading assignments and class notes. Listen to this lecture on B. F. Skinner from Paul Bloom's Introduction to Psychology course from the Spring of 2007. "Professor Bloom opens with a brief discussion of the value and evolutionary basis of unconscious processing. The rest of this lecture introduces students to the theory of Behaviorism, particularly the work of prominent behaviorist, B. F. Skinner. Different types of learning are discussed in detail, as well as reasons why behaviorism has been largely displaced as an adequate theory of human mental life."
Operant Conditioning Lecture notes of R.W.Kentridge of Durham University, UK.
B. F. Skinner and Radical Behaviorism by Michael T. Hynan, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. See also Moderate and Cognitive Behaviorists including classical and instrumental conditioning, Albert Bandura, and Walter Mischel)
Tests, Measures, and Scales
Classical Conditioning illustrated via The Office Jim, from the NBC comedy The Office, trains Dwight using principles of classical conditioning in this 1 minute 9 second video.
Conditioning: The Golf-Playing Parrot Watch while AJ the parrot plays dead, rolls over, shakes hands, sinks a putt, goes bowling and more in these fun 1-2 minute videos which illustrate the power of conditioning in animal training.
Conditioning: Skinner and his pigeons Illustrates how Skinner used principles of operant conditioning to train pigeons. Includes Skinner himself talking about his work and commenting on schedules of reinforcement, gambling behavior, and free will. 3 minutes, 57 seconds.
Did B. F. Skinner Raise His Children in a Skinner Box? Michael Britt of The Psych Files created this animation of Skinner talking — using Skinner’s actual voice and responses — to answer this long held belief in unique and entertaining way (Runs 3 minutes, 59 seconds). Posted October, 2014.
Learning Unit 8 from the Discovering Psychology series is all about Learning and includes a discussion of Instrumental Conditioning and the theories of Pavlov, Thorndike, Watson and Skinner and includes videos of little Albert. (The entire series is available for video streaming with free registration).
Little Albert and John Watson This original film demonstrates how fear is a conditioned response. Watch while the famous infant Little Albert shows no fear to various objects including a dog, a monkey, a burning newspaper, and a white rat. Then watch while Watson conditions fear in Albert by pairing the white rat with a banging noise. See how the response generalizes to all furry things. (2 minutes, 36 seconds; with Spanish sub-titles).
Finding Little Albert Michael Britt created an episode for his podcast, The Psych Files, which discusses the curious story of how Little Albert, one of the most famous subjects in the history of psychology, was finally found. In this video episode (#114) Britt takes us through each step of the extensive and fascinating detective work which led to Albert's identity. Includes some never seen before pictures.
The Little Albert Study: What You Know is Mostly Wrong Michael Britt created an episode for his podcast, The Psych Files, which discusses the real story behind Little Albert, one of the most famous subjects in the history of psychology. In this episode (#47) Britt explains, If you think you know a lot about the little Albert experiment conducted by John Watson? Well, guess what – you’d be surprised at how much of the story is simply not true. If you’re wondering whatever happened to little Albert, whether the little Albert study created a lasting phobia in a small boy, or even what place this story has in the history of behaviorism, then I suggest you take a listen to this episode of The Psych Files and get the facts on this fascinating part of psychology’s history.
Positive Reinforcement - The Big Bang Theory Sheldon uses chocolate to shape Penny’s behavior. Later, Sheldon and Leonard have a discussion of conditioning, which, despite some misuse of terms, may still spark discussion in your class.
Psych Elves Michael Britt, of the Psych Files Podcast, had the temerity to turn these three personality psychologists into Elves. Can you identify them?
Psychology Cartoons Spice up your lectures with one of these classic single-panel cartoons of Sydney Harris. In this online collection of science cartoons you will find references to Freud, Rorschach, brain dominance, skinner, existentialism, and more.
Skinner on Compassionate Behavior Michael Britt of The Psych Files podcast presents this audio clip of B.F. Skinner on compassion: Listen to B. F. Skinner as he explains how he believes we can get people to be more compassionate as they deal with old people, prisoners, psychiatric patients and the developmentally delayed (which in his day were referred to commonly as "retardates"). Note that he is more in favor of rewarding positive behavior than in implementing "aversive controls" also note that he speaks of how important knowledge is in treating people with these needs (runs 2 minutes, 31 seconds).
Skinner on Learning to Love Reading Michael Britt of The Psych Files podcast presents this audio clip of B. F. Skinner talking about reading In another surprisingly "humanistic" interview with B.F. Skinner he discusses what he thinks we can do to make learning to read fun. "Fun"? and "Skinner"? Yup. There are more sides to Skinner than we sometimes think about after we've had only a basic course in psychology (runs 3 minutes and 31 seconds).
Skinner on Learning to Play Music Michael Britt of The Psych Files podcast presents this audio clip of B.F. Skinner talking about learning to play music. As Britt explains, Skinner has, unfortunately, suffered from a bad reputation. Listen to how he explains his own experiences learning to play the piano and his suggestions for how children might come to love playing music if we introduce it into their lives correctly. If you didn't know it was his voice you probably wouldn't guess this was him speaking (runs 1 minute, 40 seconds).
Skinner on Reinforcement An in-depth view of how Skinner trained pigeons to read in this classic film clip. Includes a discussion of schedules of reinforcement, gambling, and his controversial views on free will (runs 3 minutes, 57 seconds).
Skinner's Teaching Machine of the Future Skinner himself explains why studying by way of a teaching machine is often dramatically effective in this classic black and white film clip (runs 4 minutes, 19 seconds; contains Spanish subtitles).
What was B.F. Skinner Really Like? According to Michael Britt of The Psych Files podcast, Would you be surprised to learn that B.F. Skinner was a very likable guy and that you may actually be very much in agreement with his ideas? Many people who study psychology have a negative impression of Skinner. Well, I’m about to challenge those impressions by presenting a side of Skinner you probably haven’t been exposed to. In these sound bytes you’ll hear his ideas about learning to play music, about discovery, having fun and becoming the most that you can be. From episode 191 posted March 11, 2013. (runs 32 minutes, 35 seconds).
The teaching machine, a mechanical invention to automate the task of programmed instruction. Skinner teaching machine 01 by Silly rabbit - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons