BF Skinner has been one of the most important psychologists in the history of psychology. The greatest exponent of operant or instrumental conditioning, he is best known for his studies with mice and pigeons.
- You can learn more about his theory in our post: “BF Skinner: life and work of a radical behaviorist”
The best BF Skinner quotes
BF Skinner has left many famous quotes for history. In this article you can find 55 of his best phrases.
1. Nobody asks how to motivate a baby. A baby naturally explores everything she can, unless she is prevented from doing so. And yet, this trend does not die alone, it is annihilated
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 family.
3. Triumph over nature and over oneself. But never about 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 strongly opposed to behavioral manipulation nevertheless make the most vigorous effort to manipulate minds.
Skinner, in his research, manipulated the environment in order to record the consequences in behavior.
5. The great books do not have to be taught; we must teach the love of reading. Knowing the content of some works of literature is a trivial achievement. Being inclined to continue reading 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.
7. Science is a willingness to accept facts, even when they oppose desires
Skinner had a notable influence on 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 an enormous number of men and women of good will are trying to build a better world. But problems arise faster than they can be solved.
Skinner affirms that the world changes very quickly.
10. I did not direct my life. I didn’t design it. I never made decisions. Things always came up and were done 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 like father, like son. Democracy is the power and the rule. It is not the will of the people, he remembers; which is the will of the majority
Democracy refers to the will of the majority of the people.
13. There is no reason why a man cannot be taught to think.
You also learn to think, explains Skinner
14. Education is what survives when everything learned is forgotten
Experiential learning has the greatest effect than rote learning.
15. Society attacks early, when the individual can’t do anything
Society has a great impact on our development.
16. Not everyone is willing to defend an “I don’t know” position. There is no virtue in ignorance
Ignorance is associated with inferiority.
17. Failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best thing to do in those circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.
Failure can actually be an opportunity to grow.
18. The concept of the mind is a human invention, not a discovery
Behaviorists like Skinner disparaged the mind. They did not give it great importance, at least when studying human behavior.
19. The real problem is not whether machines think, but whether men do.
A reflection by Skinner with a certain 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 their action
In clear reference to his concept of reinforcement.
22. We must not teach great books, we must teach a love of reading
Habits are learned. and reading, which brings many benefits to people, is a good habit.
23. Stable personal affection is more than a romantic rationalization of an economic unit
Affection is something that cannot be measured.
24. When we find something pleasurable, we are more likely to repeat it
In instrumental conditioning, pleasant or unpleasant consequences cause whether or not we repeat a behavior.
25. Men build society and society builds men
We act on the environment and the environment acts on us.
26. The consequences of an act affect the probability that it will occur again
Again, a mention of the impact that consequences have on our behavior.
27. Science is above all a set of attitudes. It is a disposition to deal with facts rather than with what someone has said about them… Science is a disposition to accept facts even when they oppose one’s desires.
Science must be rigorous and objective, explains Skinner
28. The world is at a mediocre level. Any society that is free of hunger and violence looks bright in this context
Human beings are treating the world badly.
29. There are notable similarities between natural selection, operant conditioning, and the evolution of the social environment. All three not only dispense with a prior creative design and a prior purpose, but also resort 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 his well-being. What is good for culture is what allows it to solve its problems
Unlike classical conditioning, operant conditioning is not based on an automatic response to an environmental stimulus, but rather has a direction and purpose, reflecting the subject’s knowledge of the consequences of their action.
30. We do not choose survival as a value, it is what chooses us
The environment has a great influence on our lives.
31. The life of the mind is said to require and consume psychic energy. This is simply another way of representing the probability of behavior derived from supervisory or reinforcement contingencies.
For behaviorists, observable behavior has more value than mental processes.
32. The real problem is not whether machines think, but whether men do it
There is a certain touch of humor in this quote from BF Skinner
33. The only geniuses are those produced by the chaos of society, they are the ones who do something about it. Chaos breeds genius
Solving problems and adapting to the environment is what makes us intelligent.
34. The person is not a generating agent; a point at which many genetic and environmental conditions come together in a common effect. No one else (unless he has an identical twin) has his genetic makeup, and no one else, without exception, has his same personal history. Therefore, no one else will behave in exactly the same way
Experiences mark our development and our personality
35. Everyone talks about the mind without hesitation, but they are perplexed when asked to define it.
Behaviorists such as 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 each other is essential to live in harmony.
38. A piece of music is an experience that should be taken on its own
Skinner highlights the value of this art.
39. Do not intervene between a person and the consequences of their actions
Skinner maintained that the main learning process consisted of associating acts with their perceived consequences.
40. I don’t believe in God, so I’m not afraid of dying
One of Skinner’s phrases about your religious beliefsor 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 it influences themselves in the desired way, so controlling oneself can mean doing it this way or, conversely, not worrying about influencing oneself and letting it happen. everything takes 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 biases
44. We have not yet seen what man can make of man
Another of Skinner’s phrases in which he talks about the potential of behavior 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 we can live well, we should stop building one in which we cannot live at all.
A phrase that captures the pessimism that Skinner showed on certain topics.
47. Problem solving typically involves discrimination of stimuli
Distinguishing stimuli from each other is necessary to draw conclusions about the experience.
48. One of the advantages of education is simply going to the end
Another of the critical phrases with the typical educational model.
49. If you are old, don’t try to change yourself, change your environment
There is a point where it is best 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 don’t have to work in any context.
51. Asking a citizen to take an oath is losing some of the authentic loyalty they 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 one.
A reflection on the attitude that scientists usually have.
53. What is love but another name for positive reinforcement? Or vice versa
One of BF Skinner’s phrases 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 control of society to other sources
A somewhat dark view of politics: less government does not mean more freedom.
56. When you come across something interesting, drop everything else and study it
A vision of scientists and researchers.
57. Give me a child and I will mold him into anything
A brief summary of his social philosophy.
58. The environment shapes people’s actions
One of the bases of behaviorism.
59. The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount
The reinforcement must be intense enough to be efficient.
60. Reinforcement is being right
When someone is right, there is a tendency to repeat one’s own behaviors.
61. I don’t think my mother and father ever had any doubts about why I was going to be punished or not. My parents come from a very strictly defined culture
Skinner reflecting on his own education as a child.
62. Religions work for their own aggrandizement (strengthening the church, etc.) and use reinforcements of one type or another to obtain the obedience, etc., of their communicants.
An original and accurate way of conceiving religion.
63. No theory changes what it is a theory about; the man remains what he has always been
The essences remain unchanged.
64. What is sought can never produce the search
In research, searches are usually started blindly.
65. I am very pessimistic
A truly personal confession.
66. I oppose the military use of animals. I also oppose the military use of men
A plea against militarism.
67. I never really expected to be controversial
Although some of his approaches were.
68. Great scientific contributions have been the techniques
The techniques devised by man in the field of psychology have contributed to science.
69. I don’t know if I want to improve religion or not. I’d rather get rid of her
His criticism of religion was always known.
70. The people who control the condition we live in have no reason to think beyond the next five or ten years
A rather pessimistic approach.