You are here

Selected books of B. F. Skinner

Primary tabs

SizeSeedsPeersCompleted
9.49 MiB40131
This torrent has no flags.


Burrhus Frederic Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) was an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. He was a professor of psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974.

Considering free will to be an illusion, Skinner saw human action as dependent on consequences of previous actions, a theory he would articulate as the principle of reinforcement: If the consequences to an action are bad, there is a high chance the action will not be repeated; if the consequences are good, the probability of the action being repeated becomes stronger.

Skinner developed behavior analysis, especially the philosophy of radical behaviorism, and founded the experimental analysis of behavior, a school of experimental research psychology. He also used operant conditioning to strengthen behavior, considering the rate of response to be the most effective measure of response strength. To study operant conditioning, he invented the operant conditioning chamber (aka the Skinner Box), and to measure rate he invented the cumulative recorder. Using these tools, he and Charles Ferster produced Skinner's most influential experimental work, outlined in their book Schedules of Reinforcement (1957).

Skinner was a prolific author, having published 21 books and 180 articles. He imagined the application of his ideas to the design of a human community in his utopian novel, Walden Two (1948), while his analysis of human behavior culminated in his work, Verbal Behavior.

Contemporary academia considers Skinner, along with John B. Watson and Ivan Pavlov, a pioneer of modern behaviorism. Accordingly, a June 2002 survey listed Skinner as the most influential psychologist of the 20th century.

Beyond Freedom and Dignity

In this profound and profoundly controversial work, a landmark of 20th-century thought originally published in 1971, B. F. Skinner makes his definitive statement about humankind and society.
Insisting that the problems of the world today can be solved only by dealing much more effectively with human behavior, Skinner argues that our traditional concepts of freedom and dignity must be sharply revised. They have played an important historical role in our struggle against many kinds of tyranny, he acknowledges, but they are now responsible for the futile defense of a presumed free and autonomous individual; they are perpetuating our use of punishment and blocking the development of more effective cultural practices. Basing his arguments on the massive results of the experimental analysis of behavior he pioneered, Skinner rejects traditional explanations of behavior in terms of states of mind, feelings, and other mental attributes in favor of explanations to be sought in the interaction between genetic endowment and personal history. He argues that instead of promoting freedom and dignity as personal attributes, we should direct our attention to the physical and social environments in which people live. It is the environment rather than humankind itself that must be changed if the traditional goals of the struggle for freedom and dignity are to be reached.
Beyond Freedom and Dignity urges us to reexamine the ideals we have taken for granted and to consider the possibility of a radically behaviorist approach to human problems—one that has appeared to some incompatible with those ideals, but which envisions the building of a world in which humankind can attain its greatest possible achievements.

Walden Two

This fictional outline of a modern utopia has been a center of controversy ever since its publication in 1948. Set in the United States, it pictures a society in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct.

Science And Human Behavior

The psychology classic—a detailed study of scientific theories of human nature and the possible ways in which human behavior can be predicted and controlled—from one of the most influential behaviorists of the twentieth century and the author of Walden Two.