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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 18

“In the behavior of reaching toward and touching a spot in the visual field, each position which the spot may occupy requires a particular combination of reaching and touching movements . . . in the central area all positions of the spot comprise a continuous field and all possible combinations of movements leading to […]

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 17

“Behavior is the coherent, continuous activity of an integral organism. Although it may be analyzed into parts for theoretical or practical purposes, we need to recognize its continuous nature in order to solve certain common problems.” (p. 116)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 16

“We do not hold people responsible for their reflexes—for example, for coughing in church. We hold them responsible for their operant behavior— for example, for whispering in church or remaining in church while coughing. But there are variables which are responsible for whispering as well as for coughing, and these may be just as […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 15

“It is not so easy to determine whether we can condition purely reflex responses in striped muscles through operant reinforcement. The difficulty is that an operant response may arise which simply imitates the reflex. One may sneeze, for example, not only because of the pepper but because of special social consequences—”He only does it […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 14

“Since we ordinarily lack anything like adequate knowledge of all these [historical] variables, it is simpler to assume that the behavior is determined by the guest’s will—that he will come if he wants to and wills to do so. But the assumption is of neither theoretical nor practical value, for we still have to […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 13

“It is natural that the “will” as an inner explanation of behavior should have survived longer in the study of operant behavior, where the control exercised by the environment is more subtle and indirect.” (p.112)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 12

“The distinction between voluntary and involuntary behavior is a matter of the kind of control.” (p. 112)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 11

“To ask whether someone can turn a handspring is merely to ask whether there are circumstances under which he will do so.” (p. 112)

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The Technology of Teaching available in e-book formats

The collection of B. F. Skinner’s works on education, The Technology of Teaching, is now available in electronic formats. Exclusive to the B. F. Skinner Foundation’s bookstore is the PDF, priced at $0.99.

Rating on Amazon for the print version of The Technology of Teaching is 5 stars out 5. Here is what one reviewer […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 10

“In the present analysis we cannot distinguish between involuntary and voluntary behavior by raising the issue of who is in control. It does not matter whether behavior is due to a willing individual or a psychic usurper if we dismiss all inner agents of whatever sort. Nor can we make the distinction on the […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 9

“The relation between the discriminative operant and its controlling stimulus is very different from elicitation. Stimulus and response occur in the same order as in the reflex, but this does not warrant the inclusion of both types in a “stimulus-response” formula . . . The difference is at the root of the classical distinction […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 8

“We use operant discrimination in two ways. In the first place, stimuli which have already become discriminative stimuli are manipulated in order to change probabilities . . . In the second place, we may set up a discrimination in order to make sure that a future stimulus will have a given effect when it […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 7

“The three-term contingency is evident in teaching a child to read, when a given response is reinforced with ”right or “wrong” according to the presence or absence of the appropriate stimulus.” (p. 109)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 6

“Verbal behavior fits the pattern of the three-term contingency and supplies many illuminating examples. We learn to name objects by acquiring an enormous repertoire of responses each of which is appropriate to a given occasion.” (p. 109)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 5

“It is obviously advantageous that a response occur only when it is likely to be reinforced . . . The social environment contains vast numbers of such contingencies. A smile is an occasion upon which social approach will meet with approval. A frown is an occasion upon which the same approach will not meet […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 4

“We describe the contingency by saying that a stimulus . . .  is the occasion upon which a response . . . is followed by reinforcement . . . All three terms must be specified.” (p. 108)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 3

“Most operant behavior, however, acquires important connections with the surrounding world . . . But the relation is fundamentally quite different [from the reflex]. It has a different history and different current properties.” (pp. 107-108)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 2

“Stimuli are always acting upon an organism, but their functional connection with the operant behavior is not like that in the reflex. Operant behavior, in short, is emitted, rather than elicited. It must have this property if the notion of probability of response is to makes sense.” (p. 107)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 1

“Operant conditioning may be described without mentioning any stimulus which acts before the response is made. In reinforcing neck-stretching in the pigeon, it was necessary to wait for the stretching to occur; we did not elicit it.” (p. 107)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 16

“Schedules of pay in industry, salesmanship, and the professions, and the use of bonuses, incentive wages, and so on, could also be improved from the point of view of generating maximal productivity. Whether these improvements should be permitted is a matter to be discussed later . . . We have much to gain from […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 15

“The long-term net gain or loss is almost irrelevant in accounting for the effectiveness of this [variable ratio] schedule.” (p. 104)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 14

“We get rid of the pauses after reinforcement on a fixed ratio schedule by adopting essentially the same practice as in variable-interval reinforcement: we simply vary the ratios over a considerable range around some mean value.” (p. 104)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 13

“Under ratios of reinforcement which can be sustained, the behavior eventually shows a very low probability just after reinforcement, as it does in the case of fixed-interval reinforcement.” (p. 103)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 12

“The high rate of responding and the long hours of work generated by this [fixed ratio] schedule can be dangerous to health. This is the main reason why piecework pay is usually strenuously opposed by organized labor.” (p. 102)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 11

“Since [intermittent reinforcement] is a technique for “getting more responses out of an organism” in return for a given number of reinforcements, it is widely used.” (pp 99-100)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 10

“A large part of behavior . . . is reinforced only intermittently. A given consequence may depend upon a series of events which are not easily predicted. We do not always win at cards or dice, because the contingencies are so remotely determined that we call them “chance.” (p. 99)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 9

“In general, behavior which acts upon the immediate physical environment is consistently reinforced.” (p. 99)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 8

“One reason the term “learning” is not equivalent to “operant conditioning” is that traditionally it has been confined to the process of learning how to do something . . . Operant conditioning continues to be effective even when there is no further change which can be spoken of as acquisition or even as improvement […]

Teaching Machine for the New Generation

The Analysis of Behavior: A Program for Self-Instruction by James G. Holland and B. F. Skinner introduced behavior analysis to thousands of students.  The program produced a superior level of mastery than that obtained from textbooks. The program shaped basic behavioral concepts with small steps that built to teach increasingly complex skills. The 1961 […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 7

“The reinforcement which develops skill must be immediate. Otherwise, the precision of the differential effect is lost.” (p. 96)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 6

“The contingency which improves skill is the differential reinforcement of responses possessing special properties.” (p. 95)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 5

“Verbal behavior supplies especially good examples of the need to consider these atoms . . . A rigorous analysis shows that the word is by no means the functional unit. Larger complexes of words—idioms, phrases, or memorized passages—may vary together under control of a single variable. On the other hand, we may observe the […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 4

“The traditional explanation of transfer asserts that the second response is strengthened only insofar as the responses “possess identical elements.” This is an effort to maintain the notion of a unit of response. A more useful way of putting it is to say that the elements are strengthened wherever they occur. This leads us […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 3

“But if we are to account for many of its quantitative properties, the ultimately continuous nature of behavior must not be forgotten.
Neglect of this characteristic has been responsible for several difficult problems in behavior theory. An example is the effect sometimes spoken of as “response generalization,” “transfer,” or “response induction.” In reinforcing one operant […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 2

“When we survey behavior in . . . later stages, we find it convenient to distinguish between various operants which differ from each other in topography and produce different consequences. In this way behavior is broken into parts to facilitate analysis.” (p. 93)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 1

“Operant conditioning shapes behavior as a sculptor shapes a lump of clay. Although at some point the sculptor seems to have produced an entirely novel object, we can always follow the process back to the original undifferentiated lump, and we can make the successive stages by which we return to this condition as small […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 22

“Reflexes and other innate patterns of behavior evolve because they increase the chances of survival of the species. Operants grow strong because they are followed by important consequences in the life of the individual. Both processes raise the question of purpose for the same reason, and in both the appeal to a final cause […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 21

“The fact that operant behavior seems to be “directed toward the future” is misleading. Consider, for example, the case of “looking for something.” In what sense is the ”something” which has not yet been found relevant to the behavior? . . . In general, looking for something consists of emitting responses which in the […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 20

“Purpose is not a property of the behavior itself; it is a way of referring to controlling variables . . . The subject himself, of course, may be in an advantageous position in describing these variables because he has had an extended contact with his own behavior for many years. But his statement is […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 19

“Instead of saying that a man behaves because of the consequences which are to follow his behavior, we simply say that he behaves because of the consequences which have followed similar behavior in the past. This is of course, the Law of Effect or operant conditioning.” (p. 87)

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 18

“It is not correct to say that operant reinforcement “strengthens the response which precedes it.” The response has already occurred and cannot be changed. What is changed is the future probability of responses in the same class.  It is the operant as a class of behavior, rather than the response as a particular instance, […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 17

“Several important generalized reinforcers arise when behavior is reinforced by other people. A simple case is attention [Others are approval, affection and submissiveness.]” (p. 78)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 16

“It is possible, however, that some of the reinforcing effect of “sensory feed-back” is unconditioned. A baby appears to be reinforced by stimulation from the environment which has not been followed by primary reinforcement. The baby’s rattle is an example. The capacity to be reinforced in this way could have arisen in the evolutionary […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 15

“One form of precurrent behavior may precede different kinds of reinforcers upon different occasions. The immediate stimulation from such behavior will thus become a generalized reinforcer. We are automatically reinforced, apart from any particular deprivation, when we successfully control the physical world. This may explain our tendency to engage in skilled crafts, in artistic […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 14

“Although it is characteristic of human behavior that primary reinforcers may be effective after long delay, this is presumably only because intervening events become conditioned reinforcers.” (p. 76)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 13

“We cannot dispense with this survey [of reinforcers] simply by asking a man what reinforces him. His reply may be of some value, but it is by no means necessarily reliable. A reinforcing connection need not be obvious to the individual reinforced.” (p.75)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 12

“The difference between the two cases will be clearer when we consider the presentation of a negative reinforcer or the removal of a positive. These are the consequences which we call punishment.” (p. 73)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 11

“Events which are found to be reinforcing are of two sorts. Some reinforcements consist of presenting stimuli, of adding something— for example, food, water, or sexual contact—to the situation. These we call positive reinforcers. Others consist of removing something— for example, a loud noise, a very bright light, extreme cold or heat, or […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 10

“There is nothing circular about classifying events in terms of their effects; the criterion is both empirical and objective. It would be circular, however, if we then went on to assert that a given event strengthens an operant because it is reinforcing.” (p. 73)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 9

“The only way to tell whether or not a given event is reinforcing to a given organism under given conditions is to make a direct test. We observe the frequency of a selected response, then make an event contingent upon it and observe any change in frequency. If there is a change, we classify […]