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B. F. Skinner Developmental Psychology

B. F. Skinner Developmental Psychology

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B. F. Skinner Developmental Psychology

B. F. Skinner was born as Burrhus Frederic Skinner on Twentieth of March 1904. He later died on eighteenth of August 1990 (Bjork, 1997). He was an American poet, behaviorist, social philosopher, inventor and author. He came up with his own scientific philosophy known as radical behaviorism, was the inventor of the chamber known as operant conditioning and he also had experimental research in psychology school. He is mostly known for verbal behavior. This work has increased enormously since then. He is the one who discovered the rate of response. This is a psychological research dependent variable. According to developmental psychology, there are certain aspects that he encountered when growing up which contributed to becoming who is became as an adult.

The hereditary concept influences ones development. This means that one can do certain things having inherited them from his/her parents or other family members. Skinner’s father was William Skinner, was an attorney and his mother, Grace Skinner, was a typist but stopped when she got married. His father’s love for books and reading may have been inherited by Skinner, as he was first a writer before he changed his mind to become a psychologist. William Skinner bought his two sons sets of books so that they would enhance their reading and knowledge. Additionally, Skinner’s love for books enabled him to study well in Harvard and thus become one of the best psychologists of his time. His inherited traits from his father aided in his mental growth.

Despite having inherited a few traits from his family, his social context and the family issues played a major role in shaping his developmental process. According to Skinner, his resourceful nature was developed as an outcome of the environment he grew up in. He was a born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, where he also grew up. Since the town had approximately two thousand people, Skinner (called Fred by his family) and Edward James, his younger brother, found ways of entertaining themselves. They tried using the available materials to make a system that could get seawater oxygen (but failed), an opposite direction steering-wheelcart and to get a wood shack. Since he was always getting into trouble with his mother for failing to hang his pajamas, Skinner came up with a gadget that reminded him to hang his pajamas every time he forgot to. These construction and inventions skills enabled him to construct his research apparatus later in life.

Skinner was also a boy scout and the outdoor survival skilled propelled hi innovative ad experiential skills. He once led a canoe trip three hundred long down the River Susquehanna. He was thirteen years of age then. He attended Susquehanna High School where he was greatly thankful to his English teacher, Miss Mary Graves, for enabling him to be curious and attain intellectual independence (Bjork, 1997). These skills are very independent in his adult life s he move from being a novelist to being a very renown psychologist globally. He seemed to attempt things that were never attempted before. For example, he is greatly known for his act of putting his daughter, Deborah Skinner, in a glass box known as the “Skinner Box” in order to experiment on the effect of the environment on a person’s behavior.

Skinner stated that his parents favored his younger brother over him. Since his brother was more obedient, socially adept and charming, his mistakes went unpunished whereas Skinner got punishment for all his mistakes (Skinner, 1976). His brother’s character traits may have been inherited from their parents, their mother in particular. Their parents concerned of their social respectability and appearances may have been influential on the two boys in diverse ways. Edward became socially conscious as well while Fred repelled the social consciousness. In fact, he became an atheist because he repelled his mother’s way of instilling the fear of hell in them.

The psychoanalytic perspective and the social cognitive theories can be used to compare Skinner’s personality. The psychoanalytic perspective explains that a person’s personality is derived from his/her subconscious mind (Schulz & Schulz, 2009) can be used to explain Skinner’s personality. In this context, it is suggested that King’s personality developed from his id, his ego and his superego. The id operates on the principle of pleasure and yearns for instant satisfaction. Although this may be true in Skinner’s earlier years as a boy and youth, it was different in his later adult years. When he was a boy, he constantly engaged in adventurous activities, which led him to be innovative. This satisfied a curiosity that was always within him. However, his study of behaviorism helped to solve a problem of understanding people’s behaviors.

The social cognitive perspective may relate more to Skinner’s personality. This perspective focuses on the relationship between an individual and his/her social context. In other words, Skinner’s personality was developed y his social context (Schulz & Schulz, 2009). His interaction with his environment, his family and the rest of the society shaped his personality. Skinner himself appreciates that his environment and his society had a major role to play in his character and general personality. His constant curiosity and adventure led him to know more about the human’s behavior since he had an interesting behavior himself. In fact, he moved from the field of writing to the field of psychology because of an encounter he with John B. Watson’s work on Behaviorism. He also felt that he did not have a strong personal perspective to write about thus the field of writing was not good for him.

Although the social cognitive context may explain his personality, some aspects of his personality are yet to be explained. For example, it is not clearly explained that his adventurous and curiosity natures were inherited, shaped from his environment or they were from within. If they were shaped from the environment, then it means that all the children in that environment were curious and adventurous. However, Skinner’s younger brother proved to be different for he was not as curious and adventurous. Additionally, if the social context shaped the Skinner, he would have been concerned of the social affairs as his parents were. He seemed to be interested in none of these issues. The social cognitive perspective does not full explain his personality.

The humanistic perspective may best describe Skinner personality. This perspective is focused on the ‘self’ (Gillibrand, Lam & O’Donnell, 2011). Although his social context, his hereditary traits and his environment may have influenced his personality, the ‘self’ seems to play the greatest role. Its urge to grow and develop enabled him to invent things that did not work to an experiment apparatus that worked. The ‘self’ explains his curiosity and adventurous nature, which may have not been found in his parents or the other children living in the same environment and social context. The ‘self’ explains his character of using his own child for an experiment, something that brought about a lot of controversy during hi time. The humanistic perspective explains his personality.


Bjork, D.W. (1997). B.F. Skinner: A life. New York, NY: American Psychology Association.

Gillibrand, R., Lam, V., & O’Donnell, V. (2011). Developmental psychology. New York, NY: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2009). Theories of personality. Australia: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Skinner, B. F. (1976). Particulars of my life. New York: Knopf.


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