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Skinner’s Quote of the Day

On January 4, 2016, the B. F. Skinner Foundation launched a new project – Skinner’s Quote of the Day. Quotes from B. F. Skinner works, selected by renowned scientists, appear daily Monday-Friday in order, starting with Chapter 1 of each book and running all the way through the last chapter. We started with the Science and Human Behavior. You can leave your comments here (registered users only), or join the discussion on our open Facebook forum. RSS feed for Skinner’s Quote of the Day is available here.

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 13

“Control is concealed when it is represented as changing minds rather than behavior.” (p. 218)
 

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By |September 1st, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 13|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 12

“Compare two people, one of whom has been crippled by an accident, the other by an early environmental history which makes him lazy and, when criticized, mean. Both cause great inconvenience to others, but one dies a martyr, the other a scoundrel.” (p. 215)
 

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By |August 31st, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 12|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 11

“. . . if we are asked, “Is a person moral because he behaves morally, or does he behave morally because he is moral?” we must answer, “Neither.” He behaves morally and we call him moral because he lives in a particular kind of environment.” (p. 213)
 

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By |August 30th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 11|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 10

“A person who has been exposed to the promise of heaven and the threat of hell may feel stronger bodily states than one whose behavior is merely approved or censured by his fellow men. But neither one acts because he knows or feels that his behavior is right; he acts because of the contingencies […]

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By |August 29th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 10|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 9

“We sometimes say that we acted in a given way because we knew it was right or felt that it was right, but what we feel when we behave morally or ethically depends on the contingencies responsible for our behavior.” (p. 212)
 

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By |August 28th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 9|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 8

“We refrain from hurting others, not because we “know how it feels to be hurt,” but (1) because hurting other members of the species reduces the chances that the species will survive, and (2) when we have hurt others, we ourselves have been hurt.” (p. 211)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 7

“The consequences responsible for benevolent, devoted, compassionate, or public-spirited behavior are forms of countercontrol, and when they are lacking, these much-admired features of behavior are lacking.” (p. 210)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 6

“[Control] is exerted in ways which most effectively reinforce those who exert it, and unfortunately this usually means in ways which either are immediately aversive to those controlled or exploit them in the long run.” (p. 209)
 

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By |August 23rd, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 6|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 5

“We cannot choose a way of life in which there is no control. We can only change the controlling conditions.” (p. 209)
 

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By |August 22nd, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 5|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 4

“A person acts upon the environment, and what he achieves is essential to his survival and the survival of the species. Science and technology are merely manifestations of this essential feature of human behavior.” (208-209)
 

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By |August 21st, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 4|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 3

“We often overlook the fact that human behavior is also a form of control. That an organism should act to control the world around it is as characteristic of life as breathing or reproduction.” (p. 208)
 

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By |August 18th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 3|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 2

“We cannot prove, of course, that human behavior as a whole is fully determined, but the proposition becomes more plausible as facts accumulate, and I believe that a point has been reached at which its implications must be seriously considered” (p. 208)
 

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By |August 17th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 2|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 1

“A scientific analysis of behavior must, I believe, assume that a person’s behavior is controlled by his genetic and environmental histories rather than by the person himself as an initiating, creative agent; but no part of the behavioristic position has raised more violent objections.” (p. 208)
 

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By |August 16th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 12: The Question of Control, Quote 1|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 27

“What is needed,” says Carl Rogers, “is a new concept of therapy as offering help, not control.” But these are not alternatives. One can help a person by arranging an environment which exerts control, and if I am right, one cannot help a person without doing so.” (pp. 204-205)
 

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By |August 15th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 27|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 26

“When a problem calling for therapy is due to a shortage of social or intimately personal reinforcers, a solution may be difficult . . . Simulated attention, approval, or affection will eventually cause more problems than it solves, and even the deliberate use of deserved attention cheapens the coinage.” (p. 204)
 

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By |August 14th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 26|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 25

“The metaphor of growth begins in the “kindergarten” and continues into “higher” education, diverting attention from the contingencies responsible for changes in the students’ behavior.” (pp. 203-204)
 

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By |August 11th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 25|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 24

“[Teaching] is a field in which the goal seems to be obviously a matter of changing minds, attitudes, feelings, motives, and so on, and the Establishment is therefore particularly resistant to change. Yet, the point of education can be stated in behavioral terms: a teacher arranges contingencies under which the student acquires behavior which […]

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By |August 10th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 24|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 23

“One person changes the behavior of another by changing the world in which he lives. In doing so, he no doubt changes what the other person feels or introspectively observes.” (p. 199)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 22

“The Greek gods were said to change behavior by giving men and women mental states, such as pride, mental confusion, or courage, but no one has been successful in doing so since.” (p. 199)
 

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By |August 8th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 22|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 21

“One person manages another in the sense in which he manages himself. He does not do so by changing feelings or states of mind.” (p. 199)
 

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By |August 7th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 21|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 20

“As in other sciences, we often lack the information necessary for prediction and control and must be satisfied with interpretation, but our interpretations will have the support of the prediction and control which have been possible under other conditions.” (p. 194)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 19

“. . . our knowledge of another person is limited by accessibility, not by the nature of the facts. We cannot know all there is to know, as we cannot know all we should like to know about the worlds of physics and biology, but that does not mean that what remains unknown is […]

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By |August 3rd, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 19|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 18

“The meaning of an expression is different for speaker and listener; the meaning for the speaker must be sought in the circumstances under which he emits the verbal response and for the listener in the response he makes to a verbal stimulus.” (p.191)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 17

“. . . one person does not make direct contact with the inside of another, and so-called knowledge of another is often simply an ability to predict what he will do.” (p.189)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 16

“Those who seek to know themselves through an exploration of their feelings often claim an exclusive kind of knowledge . . . But it may be argued as well that only those who understand an experimental analysis and its use in interpreting human behavior can understand themselves in a scientific or technological sense.” (p. […]

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By |July 31st, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 16|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 15

“The experimental analysis of behavior, together with a special self-descriptive vocabulary derived from it, has made it possible to apply to oneself much of what has been learned about the behavior of others, including other species.” (p. 188)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 14

“We should not be surprised that the more we know about the behavior of others, the better we understand ourselves. It was a practical interest in the behavior of “the other one” which led to this new kind of self-knowledge.” (p. 188)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 13

“It is . . . important to examine the reasons for one’s own behavior as carefully as possible because they are essential . . . to good self-management.” (p. 188)
 

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By |July 26th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 13|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 12

“The shift from introspective to environmental evidence does not guarantee that self-knowledge will be accurate . . . [When evidence is sketchy,] we are likely to explain the inexplicable by attributing it to genetic endowment—asserting, “I was born that way,” or, “That’s the kind of person I am.” (p. 188)
 

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By |July 25th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 12|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 11

“As the relevance of environmental history has become clearer, . . . practical questions have begun to be asked, not about feelings and states of mind, but about the environment, and the answers are proving increasingly useful.”  (p. 188)
 

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By |July 24th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 11|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 10

“The verbal community asks, “How do you feel?” rather than, “Why do you feel that way?” because it is more likely to get an answer.” (p. 187-188)
 

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By |July 21st, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 10|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 9

“It is difficult to maintain an identity when conditions change, but a person may conceal from himself conflicting selves, possibly by ignoring or disguising one or more of them, or by branding one a stranger, as in explaining uncharacteristic behavior by saying, “I was not myself.” (p. 187)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 8

“Self-knowledge is of social origin, and it is useful first to the community which asks the questions. Later, it becomes important to the person himself—for example, in managing or controlling himself . . .” (p. 186)
 

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By |July 19th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 8|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 7

“All species except man behave without knowing that they do so, and presumably this was true of man until a verbal community arose to ask about behavior and thus to generate self-descriptive behavior.” (p. 186)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 6

“A distinction between two selves in the same skin is made when we say that a tennis player “gets mad at himself” because he misses an easy shot . . . A similar distinction is made in self-knowledge.” (p. 186)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 5

“A person is not an originating agent; he is a locus, a point at which many genetic and environmental conditions come together in a joint effect. As such, he remains unquestionably unique.” (p. 185)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 4

“The person who asserts his freedom by saying, “I determine what I shall do next,” is speaking of freedom in or from a current situation: the I who thus seems to have an option is the product of a history from which it is not free and which in fact determines what it will […]

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 3

“Complex contingencies create complex repertoires, and . . . different contingencies create different persons in the same skin, of which so-called multiple personalities are only an extreme manifestation.” (pp. 184-185)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 2

“In a behavioral analysis a person is an organism, a member of the human species, which has acquired a repertoire of behavior. It remains an organism to the anatomist and physiologist, but it is a person to those to whom its behavior is important.” (p. 184)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 1

“It is often said that a science of behavior studies the human organism but neglects the person or self. What it neglect is a vestige of animism, a doctrine which in its crudest form held that the body as moved by one or more indwelling spirits.” (p. 184)
 

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By |July 10th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 11: The Self and Others, Quote 1|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 13

“The argonauts of the psyche have for centuries sailed the stormy seas of the mind, never in sight of their goal, revising their charts from time to time in the light of what seemed like new information, less and less sure of their way home, hopelessly lost. They have failed to find the Golden […]

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 12

“We need to know a great deal more about complex contingencies of reinforcement, and it will always be hard to deal with that particular set to which any one person is exposed during his life, but at least we know how to go about finding out what we need to know.” (p. 182)
 

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By |July 5th, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 12|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 11

“The psyche, like the mind, is a metaphor which is made plausible by the seeming relevance of what a person feels or introspectively observes but which is destined to remain forever in the depths. By contrast, the environment is usually accessible.” (p. 182)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 10

“The objection to the inner workings of the mind is not that they are not open to inspection but that they have stood in the way of the inspection of more important things.” (p. 182)
 

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By |July 3rd, 2017|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 10|

About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 9

“The extraordinary appeal of inner causes and the accompanying neglect of environmental histories and current setting must be due to more than a linguistic practice. I suggest that it has the appeal of the arcane, the occult, the hermetic, the magical—those mysteries which have held so important a position in the history of human […]

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 8

“Some people may have been born cautious in the sense that they learn very quickly to move cautiously or become excessively cautious even when not excessively punished, but the behavior at issue can usually be traced to a history of punishing consequences.” (p.178)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 7

“We tend to make nouns of adjectives and verbs and must then find a place for the things the nouns are said to represent.” (p. 177)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 6

“By turning to the facts on which these expressions [about “intrapsychic life”] are based, it is usually possible to identify the contingencies of reinforcement which account for the intrapsychic activities.” (p. 170)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 5

“What behaviorism rejects is the unconscious as an agent, and of course it rejects the conscious mind as an agent, too.” (p. 169)
 

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About Behaviorism, Chapter 10: The Inner World of Motivation and Emotion, Quote 4

“To increase a person’s consciousness of the external world is simply to bring him under more sensitive control of that world as a source of stimulation.” (p. 169)
 

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