B. F. Skinner: Mistaken – or Misunderstood?

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2013-07-02

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Abstract

The chief offense of “political correctness” is its unreflective certainty – about which causes to hail or demonize and about the necessity to take sides on every issue. Science has no room for such dogmatism, of course. Yet, human nature being what it is, in the softer sciences, at least, demonization of “outs” and automatic acceptance of “ins” is the rule rather than the exception. For many years in experimental psychology, the “ins” have been the “cognitive” psychologists and the “outs” the behaviorists, especially the radical behaviorist followers of B. F. Skinner, whose life and work are the topics of these two books...

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Staddon

John E. R. Staddon

James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience

Until my retirement in 2007, my laboratory did experimental research on learning and adaptive behavior, mostly with animals: pigeons, rats, fish, parakeets.  We were particularly interested in timing and memory, feeding regulation, habituation and the ways in which pigeons and rats adapt to reward schedules. The aim  is to arrive at simple models for learning that can help to identify the underlying neural mechanisms. I continue to do theoretical and historical work on the power law in psychophysics, operant learning, timing and memory, habituation and feeding regulation.  I have applied some of these ideas to economics and financial markets and social issues such as traffic control (Distracting Miss Daisy, The Atlantic, 2008; Death by Stop Sign) and smoking (Unlucky Strike, Private Health and the Science, Law and Politics of Smoking, with David Hockney, UBP, 2013).  A second edition of Adaptive Behavior and Learning (Cambridge UP) was published in 2016. Most recently I have published Scientific Method: How Science Works, Fails to Work, and Pretends to Work. published by Routledge in December, 2017, Unlucky Strike Second Edition, and Science in an age of unreason (Regnery, 2022). 


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