B. F. Skinner was a distinguished psychologist renowned for advancing various theories on human behavior. His works received critical reviews from numerous scholars. This paper analyses three journals, each providing a different point of view on behaviorism as suggested by Skinner. Delprato and Midgley’s “Some Fundamentals of B. F. Skinner’s Behaviorism” attempts to fill the gaps in Skinner’s theory by analyzing 12 fundamental points of the theory. In “The Meaning of Behaviorism for B. F. Skinner”, Siegel analyzes the connection between Skinner’s life and work. In the final journal, “Operant Behavior”, Skinner further advances his theories.
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Summary of Journals
In this essay, three journals are summarized. The first section analyzes Delprato and Midgley’s “Some Fundamentals of B. E Skinner’s Behaviorism.” The next section is a summary of “The Meaning of Behaviorism for B. F. Skinner” by Siegel. The last part contains a summary of “Operant Behavior” by Skinner.
Some Fundamentals of B. E. Skinner’s Behaviorism
In this journal, Delprato and Midgley (2002) sought to punch holes into Skinner’s arguments on behaviorism through a point-by-point analysis of his works. Some of the statements that this journal founds as being inconsistent in Skinner’s works include: the primary purpose of science as being “prediction and control” (Delprato and Midgley, 2002, p. 1507), that science only describes the events as they happen, and the idea of localization of behavioral causes in the environment.
This journal also offered a critical review of the assumptions of behaviorism on consequential causality, where the outcomes of living systems are determined by the environment with selection by consequences as the primary causal mode; negation of dualism, and behavior as subject matter (Delprato and Midgley, 2002).
From their analysis, Delprato and Midgley (2002) argued that Skinner’s position on reductionism was ambiguous. As explained in this journal, there were conflicting assumptions on this position. To begin with, reductionism could have meant that psychology’s subject matter was reducible in biology terms (Delprato and Midgley, 2002). This meant that inherited genes determined someone’s behaviorism. Yet behavioral analysis through functional relations showed that present events could impact future behavior of an organism. For this reason, this assumption was proved to contain factual gaps.
Delprato and Midgley’s (2002) other assumption was that through nonreductionism, biology terms could not explain behavior completely. This assumption followed Skinner’s argument on behavior. According to Skinner (1937), behavior was an acceptable subject on its own, and for this reason, it did not require other subjects such as biology or physics to describe it.
In their conclusion, Delprato and Midgley (2002) supported the views of Skinner on behaviorism, but also underlined the significant assumptions that any study on Skinner’s works should take into consideration.
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The Meaning of Behaviorism for B. F. Skinner
In this journal, Siegel attempted to relate the Skinner’s scholarly works and life experiences. The journal used the ideas of Freud in Leonardo da Vinci, and A Memory of His Childhood (1910) to argue how Skinner’s life was related to his theory on behaviorism. According to Siegel (2006), Skinner may have conceived most of his ideas and passed then as a behaviorism theory to justify his inadequacies in life and scholarly works. This journal also borrowed ideas from other scholars to explain how theorists attempted to reconstruct history through their texts. A clear example was provided through evaluation of Skinner’s autobiographical work; “Skinner’s River: Introducing Particulars of my Life.”
This journal was critical of Skinner’s tone and attitude in his works. These two elements were explained as reflecting his own personality despite the author’s attempt at concealing it (Siegel, 2006). The continued usage of first person narration in Skinner’s works was also criticized. Siegel (2006) explained that the usage of this tense reduced the scholarly work to mere description of the author’s life and the physical description of where he grew up.
This journal concluded by dismissing the universality of many behavioral theories owing to their high dependence on the life events of the theorists.
Skinner continued advancing his theory of behavior of organisms in this journal. This journal particularly evaluated the influence of the social environment on behavior. In this text, Skinner explained how behavior could be altered through operant conditioning – a form of learning where the behavior of an organism is altered by its consequences. In this works, Skinner added the idea of behavior change which was presented from a different perspective, as opposed to his earlier behavioral process models. He backed up this claim by using different examples of stimulus controlled behavioral experiments (Skinner, 1937).
Skinner analyzed how the operant behavior model fitted into conventional research methods. He supported this finding by showing how several past studies had yielded misleading results owing to the nature of variable being studied, the limitations of using statistics and formal analyses in operant behavior experiments (Skinner. 1937). In his analysis, Skinner (1937) found out that studies on behavioral process could not be effectively carried out using these methods.
The journal concluded by outlining a technique where natural science was to be used in such experiments. The basis of this technique was that ideal behavior was related to its consequence (Skimmer, 1937). In the summary, Skimmer observed that the human behavior field contained wide speared and ubiquitous contingencies of reinforcements.
Delprato, D. J. and Midgley, B. D. (2002). Some Fundamentals of B. E Skinner’s Behaviorism. American Psychological Association, 47 (11), pp. 1507-1520.
Siegel, P. F. (1996). The Meaning of Behaviorism for B. F. Skinner. Psychoanalytic Psychology 75 (3), pp. 343-365.
Skinner, B. F. (1937). Operant Behavior. Cambridge: Harvard University.