• Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born March 20, 1904 (he died August 18 th leukemia), in the small Pennsylvania town of Susquehanna. 1990 of • His father was a lawyer, and his mother a strong and intelligent housewife. His upbringing was old-fashioned and hard-working.

• B. F. Skinner’s theory is based on operant conditioning. The organism is in the process of “operating” on the environment, which in ordinary terms means it is bouncing around its world, doing what it does. During this “operating,” the organism encounters a special kind of stimulus, called a reinforcing stimulus, or simply a reinforcer.

• • He innovated his own philosophy of science called radicalism, this was his particular brand of behaviourism, which looked at the philosophy of science of behaviour.# Founded his own of experimental research psychology.


Skinner believed that the free will of human beings was an illusion and the actions that they made was a consequence of that action.

His research was built on shaping behaviour through positive and negative reinforcement and demonstrated operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behaviour. Through operant conditioning, an individual makes an association between a particular behaviour and a consequence. (Skinner, 1938).

METHOD: A rat was placed in a special cage (aka the “skinner box”) that had a bar or pedal on one wall that, when pressed, releases a food pellet into the cage. The rat is moves around the cage and when it accidentally presses the bar the result was, a food pellet falls into the cage. The operant is the behaviour just before the reinforce, which is the food pellet. In a relatively short period of time the rat "learns" to press the bar whenever it wants food. This leads to one of the principles of operant conditioning,

behaviour occurring in the future.

A behaviour followed by a reinforcing stimulus resulting in an increased probability of that

If the rat were to press the bar continually and doesn’t get the food, the behaviour becomes stops, leading to another of the principles of operant conditioning,

occurring in the future.

A behaviour no longer followed by the reinforcing stimulus results in a decreased probability of that behaviour


Skinner felt that he could simplify the process for parents and improve the experience for children. Through some tinkering, he created the “air crib,” a climate controlled environment for an infant.

The “Air Crib” was essentially a oversized metal crib but with a ceiling, three solid walls and a safety-glass pane at the front which could be lowered to move the baby in and out of the crib.

The cribs were commercially produced and it is estimated that over 300 children were raised in them. Psychology Today ran a short piece on the air crib where the authors tracked down 50 children that used the air crib. The results for these children were positive and the parents enjoyed using the crib.

THE DOWNFALL OF THE “AIR CRIB” • • People were so concerned about the possible negative ramifications of this new type of crib that they ignored its potential benefits. Skinner and his wife identified 19 different positive results for both them and their daughter from use of the air crib.

Some began to make inferences about the nature of the crib based on the much more famous Skinner box. The air crib therefore became associated with rewards, pellets, levers, and the like. People were also wary of using science and technology as aids or perhaps replacements for the loving labour of the mother.


Although B.F. Skinner’s behaviourist methods are generally widely accepted as basic teaching tools, Most of skinners theories were supposed to be based on self- observation, which caused him to become a strong supporter for behaviourism. An advocate for behavioural engineering he thought that people should be controlled through systematic allocation of external rewards, but because behaviourism doesn’t require that an animal understand its actions, this theory can be somewhat misleading about the degree to which an animal actually understands what it is doing, when used to teach complex behaviours.

Skinner boxes have also been criticized by various animal welfare organizations as cruel, both because they tend to be small and because they often deprive the animal of all other stimuli, including species-appropriate social interaction.

• • • Operant conditioning ignores cognitive processes, assumes learning occurs only through reinforcement which is not true, overlooks genetic predispositions and species-specific behaviour patterns which can interfere with it.