B. F. Skinner Essay, Research Paper
Burrhus Frederic Skinner, psychologist and behaviorist, was born in Susquhanna, Pennsylvania in 1904 to William Skinner and Grace Burrhus. His father was a lawywer and his mother was a naturally bright woman. Skinner had only one sibling; his brother died at the age of sixteen. Skinner lived most of his life in Susquhanna. He did not leave the house he was born in until he left to go to college. He was raised very close to his grandparents, who had a major impact on his early life. He was also close to his parents. He and his mother and father all graduated from the same high school. This was the same school that he had attended for all twelve years of his education.
Skinner attended Hamilton College at the reccomadation of a family friend. He took many different types of courses before deciding to major in English and minor in Romance Languages. Skinner felt that he did not fit in at college. He disliked the fraterninty that he had joined and he did not understand why the college required the courses that it did. He felt that he was made to take too much physical education and not enough emphasis was place on actual academics. The summer before his senior year he attended the Middlebury School of English at Breadloaf, Vermont. During this summer he had lunch with Robert Frost. Frost asked to see his work and gave Skinner a lot of enfouragemant. This led him to the decision to become a writer.
Skinner’s father was not happy with this decision. He has hoped that his son would become a lawywer, like himself. His father eventually agreed to his decision, and Skinner moved back home to start his new career. He built himself an office in his parents’ house where he could write. He was to try to be a writer for two years, and if this did not work out he would get a real job. It did not work out. Skinner played around instead of writing. He eventually wrote a mediocre book for the oil companies just to save his self-respect. After writing the book, Skinner spent six months in New York.
In the Fall, Skinner went off to Harvard to begin his study of Psychology. Animal behavior had always interested Skinner, but Human behavior was his main interest. He had always taken notice of the way that people reacted to certain situations. This interest had become obvious when he was in grade school and had continued throughout the rest of his life. Skinner worked hard for the first time in his life at Harvard. He realized that he was far behind in his studies. For two years he did nothing but study pshchology and go to his classes. He graduated in 1931.
In the spring of 1936 the end of Skinner’s junior Fellowship was approaching and he had no job. The best job offer that the Department of Psychology could pass along to him was from a YMCA college. Skinner had a friend who was teaching that summer at Minnesota, and he mentioned Skinner to R.M. Elliott, who was looking for someone to teach small sections of a big introductory course. This was the first time that Skinner had taught anything. It was also the first time that he had really learned college pshchology, so he had to study hard to stay ahead of his students.
Skinner experienced a renewed interest in Literature when he realized that the written word could also be analyzed for human behavior. He stopped trying to write for a while so that he could study the work of other people. Skinner’s intersest in literature was encouraged by his marriage in 1936 to Yvonne Blue. She had majored in English at the University of Chicago. She was an avid reader and she attended Skinner’s summer school classes where he gave a lecture on the psychology of literature. She listened to him and gave him advice on his lectures. In the next ten years, he wrote three books all having to do with the psychology of literature. Yvonne and Skinner had two daughters, Julie and Deborah.
It was the birth of their second child taht inspired one of Skinner’s inventions. He invented the “baby box” to ease the burdens of chilcare for his wife. The box is still used today, but is not so widespread because changes in childacare are hard to make. Another of his most famous endeavors was “project pigion.” This was an experiment designed to teach pigions to guide missles in the 1930’s.
B. F. Skinner died in 1990. He is stilled looked upon today as one of the most influential behaviorailists. His work is still studied and revered for it’s genius. Skinner was an independent thinker who studied everyone, including himself.