Frederic Skinner was born in a small Pennsylvania town.
His father was an attorney and his mother a housewife.
His family life was described as old-fashioned and hard
received his Bachelor's degree in English in hopes of becoming
a writer. He wrote for the school paper but saw himself
as an outsider, being an atheist in a religious school, and
often criticized the school and its beliefs. After
graduation, he continued with his hopes of being a
writer and worked for a newspaper, eventually moving to Greenwich
Village in New York City.
later returned to his life as a student and completed his
Master's degree in 1931 from Harvard, and his Doctorate a year
later, both in the field of psychology. He married that
same year and had two children, one of whom became famous, or
perhaps infamous, as the baby raised in an artificial
environment known as an 'air crib.'
1945, he became the chairman of the psychology department at
Indiana University and left to teach at Harvard three years
later, where he spent the remainder of his career.
Although he never became the writer he had dreamt of, he did
write several books and hundreds of articles on behavior
theory, reinforcement, and Learning Theory. Today he is
known as one of the most published psychologists.
biggest criticism of psychological thought was against the
growing following of Sigmund Freud. Skinner believed
that examining the unconscious or hidden motives of human
beings was a waste of time, for the only thing worth
researching was outward behaviors. It was this core
belief that led him to reject most of the theories prominent
in the field of psychology.
such as self-actualization and striving to reach one's
potential, such as the belief held by humanists was rejected
due to the inability to research such an abstract idea.
The idea of inner drives such as Freud's Id, Ego, and Superego
were seen as preposterous. And the defense mechanisms,
archetypes, and drives merely gave theoretical names to ideas
that are poorly understood and likely nonexistent.
Skinner focused on observable behaviors and spent the majority
of his professional career refining his theories of
reinforcement. He believed that personality develops,
that our behavior responds only because of external
events. In other words, we are the way we are because we
were rewarded for being that way. It is this belief that
discounts emotions, thoughts, and even human freedom of
got most of his criticism due to his belief that through
rewards and punishments, we could design the perfect Utopia. His most famous and most controversial books, Walden
II and Beyond Freedom and Dignity, described his
theory of behavioral determinism despite the protests and criticism from religious
leaders and others. In 1990, Skinner died from leukemia
but is known world wide, with the likes of Sigmund Freud, as a
forefather in modern day psychology.