B.F. Skinner and behaviorism in American culture by Laurence D. Smith, William Ray Woodward

By Laurence D. Smith, William Ray Woodward

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F. Skinner and the American Tradition: The Scientist as Social Inventor," this volume. : Prentice-Hall, 1986), pp. 1-14. 19. Nikolas Rose, "Engineering the Human Soul: Analyzing Psychological Expertise" (paper presented at the annual meeting of Cheiron-Europe, September 1990); expanded in Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (London: Routledge, 1990). 20. Likewise, Skinner's long involvement with building and refining teaching machines began when he visited his daughter's classroom at the Shady Hill School in Cambridge and observed the inefficiency of classroom learning.

Born in 1904, Burrhus Frederic Skinner majored in English language and literature at Hamilton College in upstate New York; studied psychology at Harvard until 1934; and rose from assistant to associate to full professor successively at the Universities of Minnesota in 1936, Indiana in 1945, and Harvard in 1948. He finished raising a family in Cambridge and remained there for the duration of his life, some forty-two more years. Yet these biographical markers actually tell us little about, say, the kind of husband and father he was, or where his crusading spirit came from; they may in fact hide these realities.

Several of my conversations with Skinner attest to this pessimism. Cf. Thomas McCarthy, "Private Irony and Public Decency," Critical Inquiry 16 (1990): 355-70. For other examples of behaviorists who find grounds for pessimism (though not unalloyed) on the prospects for behaviorist social reform, see James A. Dinsmoor, "Setting the Record Straight: The Social Views of B. F. Skinner," American Psychologist 47 (1992): 1454-63; and Richard F. " American Psychologist 47 (1992): 1499-1506. 48. Peter Slezak, "Scientific Discovery by Computer as Empirical REfutation of the Strong Programme," Social Studies of Science 19 (1989): 563-600, on p.

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