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A collection of quotes by B. F. Skinner on psychology, philosophy, behavior, love, education, achievement, science, change, society and learning.

35 Notable Quotes By B. F. Skinner, The Most Influential Psychologist Of The 20th Century

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American psychologist

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Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, United States

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Burrhus Frederic Skinner was a renowned psychologist famous for being the innovator of the field of behaviorism in psychology. He pursued his graduation from the renowned Harvard University. He was interested in studying the behavior of birds and devised an apparatus called the ‘Skinner Box’. This device helped him study the behavior of animals in their natural environment. He penned down his observations in a book titled ‘The Behavior of Organisms’. After completing his research from Harvard he went on to become a professor at the University of Minnesota to further serve for a shorter period as the chairperson of the psychology department at Indiana University. He further invented a device which helped in teaching a broader range of students and even wrote ‘The Technology of Teaching’. He further wrote many books on his behavioral theories including ‘About Behaviorism’. He was honored with the gold medal and the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the ‘American Psychology Association’. We bring to you a treasure trove of quotes that have been excerpted from his work, lectures, books and writings. Skinner's quotes are very intellectual and thought provoking. Read on to explore a compilation of some of the best known quotes by B. F. Skinner.

We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. Knowing the contents of a few works of literature is a trivial achievement. Being inclined to go on reading is a great achievement.

- B. F. Skinner

A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.

- B. F. Skinner

The only geniuses produced by the chaos of society are those who do something about it. Chaos breeds geniuses. It offers a man something to be a genius about.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten.

- B. F. Skinner

No one asks how to motivate a baby. A baby naturally explores everything it can get at, unless restraining forces have already been at work. And this tendency doesn't die out, it's wiped out.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

Some of us learn control, more or less by accident. The rest of us go all our lives not even understanding how it is possible, and blaming our failure on being born the wrong way.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

A person who has been punished is not thereby simply less inclined to behave in a given way; at best, he learns how to avoid punishment.

- Beyond Freedom and Dignity, B. F. Skinner

We are only just beginning to understand the power of love because we are just beginning to understand the weakness of force and aggression.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do. The mystery which surrounds a thinking machine already surrounds a thinking man.

- Contingencies Of Reinforcement: A Theoretical Analysis, B. F. Skinner

A fourth-grade reader may be a sixth-grade mathematician. The grade is an administrative device which does violence to the nature of the developmental process.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

What is love except another name for the use of positive reinforcement? Or vice versa.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

At this very moment enormous numbers of intelligent men and women of goodwill are trying to build a better world. But problems are born faster than they can be solved.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

If freedom is a requisite for human happiness, then all that’s necessary is to provide the illusion of freedom.

- B. F. Skinner

A scientist may not be sure of the answer, but he's often sure he can find one. And that's a condition which is clearly not enjoyed by philosophy.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

It is a surprising fact that those who object most violently to the manipulation of behaviour nevertheless make the most vigorous effort to manipulate minds.

- Beyond Freedom and Dignity, B. F. Skinner

...not everyone is willing to defend a position of 'not knowing.' There is no virtue in ignorance for its own sake.

- B. F. Skinner

The mob rushes in where individuals fear to tread.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

Going out of style isn't a natural process, but a manipulated change which destroys the beauty of last year's dress in order to make it worthless.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

It is not a question of starting. The start has been made. It's a question of what's to be done from now on.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

We do not choose survival as a value, it chooses us.

- B. F. Skinner

Democracy is the spawn of despotism. And like father, like son. Democracy is power and rule. It's not the will of the people, remember; it's the will of the majority.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

Society attacks early, when the individual is helpless.

- B. F. Skinner

But restraint is the only one sort of control, and absence of restraint isn't freedom. It's not control that's lacking when one feels 'free', but the objectionable control of force.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

A piece of music is an experience to be taken by itself.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

Men build society and society builds men.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

Something doing every minute' may be a gesture of despair--or the height of a battle against boredom.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

The amateur doesn't appreciate the need for experimentation. He wants his experts to know.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

The world's a poor standard. any society which is free of hunger and violence looks bright against that background.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

The tender sentiment of the 'one and only' has less to do with constancy of heart than with singleness of opportunity.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

In a democracy, there is no check against despotism, because the principle of democracy is supposed to be itself a check. But it guarantees only that the majority will not be despotically ruled.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

The consequences of an act affect the probability of its occurring again.

- B. F. Skinner

Nowadays, everybody fancies himself an expert in government and wants to have a say.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

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

- The Technology of Teaching, B. F. Skinner

The final state of affairs may not have been foreseen. Perhaps we are merely reading a plan into the world after the fact.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner

It is a mistake to suppose that the whole issue is how to free man. The issue is to improve the way in which he is controlled.

- Walden Two, B. F. Skinner