Burrhus Frederic (B. F.) Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) was an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974.
Skinner believed that human free will is an illusion and that any human action is the result of the consequences of the same action. If the consequences are bad, there is a high chance that the action will not be repeated; however if the consequences are good, the actions that led to it will become more probable. Skinner called this the principle of reinforcement.
Skinner called the use of reinforcement to strengthen behavior operant conditioning, and he considered the rate of response to be the most effective measure of response strength. To study operant conditioning he invented the operant conditioning chamber, also known as the Skinner Box, and to measure rate he invented the cumulative recorder. Using these tools he and C. B. Ferster produced his most influential experimental work, which appeared in the book Schedules of Reinforcement.
Skinner developed a philosophy of science that he called radical behaviorism, and founded a school of experimental research psychology—the experimental analysis of behavior. He imagined the application of his ideas to the design of a human community in his utopian novel Walden Two, and his analysis of human behavior culminated in his work Verbal Behavior.
Skinner was a prolific author who published 21 books and 180 articles. Contemporary academia considers Skinner a pioneer of modern behaviorism along with John B. Watson and Ivan Pavlov. A June 2002 survey listed Skinner as the most influential psychologist of the 20th century