Videos of the Operant Condition

The website of the B. F. Skinner Foundation has posted online six short videos relevant to its namesake’s illustrious career. They include the famous clip of pigeons playing ping pong, Skinner himself conditioning a pigeon to make a complete turn, and a pigeon learning to use a block to reach a “banana” hung from the top of its enclosure (a sly allusion to Wolfgang Köhler’s “insight” research with a chimp named Sultan). The remaining three videos give an illustrated explanation of Skinner’s schedules of reinforcement, a brief appraisal of Skinner’s work by behavior analyst Murray Sidman, and a short interview with Skinner about conditioning, free will, and gambling.

Behaviorists may not be so pleased by a satirical definition of “behaviorism” I recently found on Dr. Mezmer’s Dictionary of Bad Psychology, which reads:

Behaviorism: A psychological movement, now extinct, that is built on the premise that you are what you do, and you do because of what you have done. Replaced by humanistic psychology (you are what you feel), cognitive science (you are what you think), Dr. Atkins (you are what you eat) and modern advertising (you are what we say).

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About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.

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