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Skinner, Burrhus Frederick (1904–90)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-W041-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 14, 2024, from

Article Summary

B.F. Skinner advocated a philosophy of psychology, called ‘radical behaviourism’, as well as a substantive psychological theory, ‘scientific behaviourism’. Radical behaviourism restricted psychology to establishing lawful links between the environment and behaviour, rejecting the ‘mind’ as a ‘needless way station’ mediating the two. Scientific behaviourism proposed specific links, the laws of ‘operant conditioning’, whereby behaviours are ‘reinforced’ by the consequences they have had in an animal’s past. Although Skinner brought to psychology new standards of experimental rigour, and managed to train animals to do remarkable things, there are serious limits to the range of behaviours scientific behaviourism can explain. Both it and radical behaviourism have been obviated by the development of a computational theory of mind.

Citing this article:
Flanagan, Owen and Georges Rey. Skinner, Burrhus Frederick (1904–90), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-W041-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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