The rhetorical use of B. F. Skinner in evolutionary psychology

A new open-access piece in Theory & Psychology will interest AHP readers: “The rhetorical use of B. F. Skinner in evolutionary psychology,” by Timothy P. Racine. Abstract:

This article examines Skinner’s often neglected ideas about evolution, which he returns to in his final academic paper. I attempt to square Skinner’s advocacy for evolutionary explanation, including his efforts to reconcile biological, individual, and cultural adaptation, with how he is framed and critiqued by a school of evolutionary psychologists who attribute to Skinner a blank slate, or so-called standard social science model, view of the mind. I argue that characterizing Skinner in this manner is inconsistent with his evolutionary writings and ignores Skinner’s explicit disavowals of such interpretations. I then discuss Skinner’s evolutionary views in light of contemporary evolutionary theories of human psychology. I also compare the reception to evolutionary psychology and Skinner within the field more generally and conclude by discussing the proposal that evolutionary psychology should be considered a new paradigm for psychology, a claim that seems to follow from evolutionary psychologists’ caricature of Skinner.


About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

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