Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Was B.F. Skinner Really Like? A New Study Parses His Traits

Besides Sigmund Freud, B.F. Skinner was the most famous and perhaps the most influential psychologist of the 20th century. But his own "radical behaviorism"—the idea that behavior is caused solely by environmental factors, never by thoughts or feelings—made him a magnet of controversy, which grew even more intense with the publication of his best-known book, Beyond Freedom & Dignity. "He was looked at as beyond the pale by a lot of other psychologists, including me," says Dean Keith Simonton, a psychologist at the University of California Davis, who was a graduate student at Harvard when Skinner taught there. Some even called Skinner a fascist for his radical views of human malleability. But, says Simonton, "people who knew him would also say, 'You really should talk to Skinner, because he's a much broader, more open person than you think.'" more

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