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The 55 best quotes of B. F. Skinner and behaviorism

The 55 best quotes of B. F. Skinner and behaviorism

May 23, 2024

B. F. Skinner has been one of the most important psychologists in the history of psychology . Maximum exponent of operant or instrumental conditioning, is best known for his studies with mice and pigeons.

  • You can learn more about his theory in our post: "B. F. Skinner: life and work of a radical behaviorist"

The best quotes of B. F. Skinner

B. F. Skinner has left for the history a multitude of famous quotes. In this article you will find 55 of your best phrases .

1. No one asks how to motivate a baby. A baby naturally explores everything he can, unless prevented. And even then, this trend does not die alone, it is annihilated

The interaction with the environment allows us to learn and develop.


2. The most significant fact of our time is the growing weakening of the family

A Skinner quote that talks about the family.

3. Triumph over nature and over yourself. But never about the others

In his theory, Skinner talks about reinforcement and how it affects our behavior.

4. It is a surprising fact that those who are most adamantly opposed to the manipulation of behavior, however, make the most strenuous effort to manipulate minds

Skinner, in his investigations, manipulated the environment in order to record the consequences in the behavior.

5. You do not have to teach the great books; We must teach the love of reading. Knowing the content of some works of literature is a trivial achievement. To be inclined to continue reading, it is a great achievement

A reflection that allows free interpretation.


6. What people feel is as important as what they do

Positive reinforcement causes us to repeat the behavior again.

7. Science is a willingness to accept facts, even when they oppose wishes

Skinner greatly influenced the development of psychology as a science.

8. The proposals and hypotheses of psychology must be verified exclusively through objective evidence

As a behaviorist, observable behavior is what has value in the study of psychology.

9. At this very moment a huge number of men and women of good will are trying to build a better world. But the problems are born faster than they can be solved

Skinner says that the world changes very quickly.

10. I did not direct my life. I did not design it I never made decisions. Things always came up and they did it for me. That's what life is

Skinner was a behaviorist and, therefore, according to him, the environment shapes our behavior.


11. If freedom is a requirement for human happiness, then all that is necessary is to provide the illusion of freedom

If we change the perception we have, we change what we feel.

12. Democracy is the spawn of despotism. And to such a father, such a son. Democracy is the power and the rule. It is not the will of the people, remember; which is the will of the majority

Democracy refers to the will of the great part of the people.

13. There is no reason why you can not teach a man to think

To think is also learned, explains Skinner

14. Education is what survives when everything learned is forgotten

Experiential learning has a greater effect than rote learning.

15. Society attacks early, when the individual can not do anything

Society has a great impact on our development.

16. Not everyone is willing to defend a "do not know" position. There is no virtue in ignorance

Ignorance is associated with inferiority.

17. Failure is not always an error, it may simply be the best thing to do in those circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying

Failure, in fact, can be an opportunity to grow.

18. The concept of the mind is a human invention, not a discovery

Behaviorists like Skinner belittled the mind . They did not give it much importance, at least when it came to studying human behavior.

19. The real problem is not whether the machines think, but whether the men do

A reflection of Skinner with a touch of irony.

20. Do not consider any practice as immutable. Change and be willing to change again. Do not accept the eternal truth. Try

People can change through experience.

21. Men act on the world, modifying it and are in turn modified by the consequences of its action

In clear reference to his concept of reinforcement.

22. We must not teach the great books, we have to teach a love for reading

Habits are learned. and reading, which brings many benefits for people, is a good habit.

23. Stable personal affection is more than a romantic rationalization of an economic unit

Affection is something that can not be measured.

24. When something is pleasant to us, it is more likely to repeat it

In instrumental conditioning, the pleasurable or unpleasant consequences cause us to repeat or not repeat a behavior.

25. Men build society and society builds men

We act on the medium and the medium acts on us.

26. The consequences of an act affect the likelihood that it will occur again

Again, a mention of the impact that consequences have on our behavior.

27. Science is first and foremost a set of attitudes. It is a disposition to deal with facts rather than what someone has said about them ... Science is a willingness to accept facts even when they oppose wishes

Science must be rigorous and objective, explains Skinner

28. The world is at a mediocre level. Any society that is free from hunger and violence, looks bright in this context

Human beings are treating the world badly.

29. There are remarkable similarities between natural selection, operant conditioning and the evolution of the social environment. The three not only dispense with a previous creative design and a previous purpose, but they go to the notion of survival as a value. The good thing for the species is that it promotes its survival. What is good for the individual is what promotes their well-being. What's good for culture is what allows you to solve your problems

Unlike classical conditioning, operant conditioning is not based on an automatic response to an environmental stimulus, but has a direction and purpose, reflecting the subject's knowledge of the consequences of its action.

30. We do not choose survival as a value, it is she who chooses us

The environment exerts a great influence on our lives.

31. It is said that the life of the mind requires and consumes psychic energy. This is, simply, another way to represent the probability of the behavior derived from supervisory or reinforcement contingencies

For behaviorists, observable behavior has more value than mental processes.

32. The real problem is not whether the machines think, but whether the men do it

A touch of humor is perceived in this quote by B. F. Skinner

33. The only geniuses are those produced by the chaos of society, are those who do something about it. Chaos breeds geniuses

The solution of problems and adaptation to the environment is what makes us smart.

34. The person is not a generating agent; a point at which many genetic and environmental conditions converge in a common effect. Nobody else (unless we have an identical twin) has his genetic endowment, and no one else, without exception, has his own personal history. Therefore, no one else will behave in exactly the same way

The experiences are marking our development and our personality

35. All people speak of the mind without hesitation, but are perplexed when asked to define it

Behaviorists like Skinner, Watson or Pavlov underestimated the role of the mind in our behavior.

36. Each person is in contact with a small part of the universe contained within their own skin

A deep reflection that invites the reader to interpret it freely.

37. The main problem facing the world today can only be solved if we improve our understanding of human behavior

Understanding is essential to live in harmony.

38. A piece of music is an experience that must be taken by itself

Skinner highlights the value of this art.

39. Do not intervene between a person and the consequences of their actions

Skinner argued that the main learning process was to associate acts with the perceived consequences of these.

40. I do not believe in God, so it does not scare me to die

One of Skinner's phrases about your religious beliefs , or rather, the absence of them.

41. When we say that a man controls himself, we must specify who controls whom

Skinner understood that human beings can intervene in the environment so that they can influence themselves in the desired way, so controlling oneself can mean doing it this way or, on the contrary, not caring about influencing oneself and letting oneself everything runs its course without taking advantage of the potential of operant conditioning.

42. My rats have taught me much more than I have taught them

This researcher developed most of his work experimenting with animals.

43. The rat is always right

Rats express behavior that is not contaminated by bias

44. We have not yet seen what man can do to man

Another of Skinner's phrases in which he talks about the potential of behavioral modification technology .

45. Freedom is an illusion, but a valuable one

Skinner had a deterministic conception of nature.

46. ​​Instead of building a world in which one can live well, we should stop building one in which one can not live at all

A phrase that reflects the pessimism that Skinner showed on certain topics.

47Problem solving typically involves stimulus discrimination

Distinguishing stimuli from each other is necessary to draw conclusions about the experience.

48. One of the advantages of education is simply to reach its end

Another of the critical phrases with the typical educational model.

49. If you are old, do not try to change yourself, change your environment

There is a point at which it is better to concentrate efforts on changing the exterior.

50. A man who has been imprisoned for violent assault is not necessarily less prone to violence

Punishments do not have to work in any context.

51. Asking the citizen to take an oath is to lose some of the authentic loyalty that he could develop, since any loyal behavior will be attributed to the oath

A skillful observation based on the idea of ​​operant conditioning.

52. The scientist may not be sure of the answer, but he is sure that he can find a

A reflection on the attitude that scientists usually have.

53. What is love but another name for positive reinforcement? Or vice versa

One of the phrases of B. F. Skinner with a more biting and humorous touch at the same time.

54. Generally a disappointment is not an oversight; It could be the best that can be extracted from a specific situation. The wrong thing is to stop trying

Disappointments teach us to progress.

55. A permissive government is one that leaves the control of society to other sources

A somewhat obscure vision of politics: less government does not mean greater freedom.


Pigeons are gross. They're also wildly underrated. (May 2024).


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