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.

Recent Issues. Chapter 8: The School of the Future. Quote 1

“I claim the right to repeat. Whether or not what I have said has been understood or remembered, it certainly has not had much of an effect on American schools.” (p. 85)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 15

“We need to construct relatively immediate consequences of human behavior which will act as the remoter consequences would act if they were here now.” (p. 84)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 14

” The contingencies under which people now live are maintained by governments, religions, and economic enterprises, but those institutions are in turn controlled by fairly immediate consequences which are increasingly incompatible with the future of the world.” (p. 84)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 13

“By rejecting feelings and states of mind as the initiating causes of behavior, and turning instead to the environmental conditions responsible both for what people do and feel while doing it, behavior analysts, and with them behavior therapists, can approach the larger problems of human behavior in a much more effective way.” (p. 84)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 12

“Every advance in behavior therapy . . .  begins by changing the world in which people live and then, only indirectly what they do and feel.” (p. 84)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 11

” One feels good who feels a body which has been positively reinforced.” (p. 83)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 10

“… for every behavior therapist who, upon discovering some fact about behavior, then looks for a physiological explanation, there is one fewer therapist to make further studies of behavior itself. (p. 82)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 9

“We are not yet ready to replace a police force or close the Pentagon. Applied behavior analysis has contributed to alternative measures, however, and we may hope that the problems of the autistic will soon be solved in better ways.” (p. 80)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 8

” Too ready an acceptance of aversive measures blocks progress along better lines.” (p. 80)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 7

“The word control raises a familiar issue. What right has a therapist to manipulate the conditions of which a person’s behavior is a function? The question is more often asked about the use of punitive consequences by governments or positive reinforcers by business and industry. If it is not so often asked of psychotherapists, […]

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 6

” The argument for operant behavior therapy is essentially this: What are felt as feelings or introspectively observed as states of mind are states of the body, and they are the products of certain contingencies of reinforcement. The contingencies can be much more easily identified and analyzed than feelings or states of mind, and […]

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 5

” Therapists have been as much concerned with what people do as with what they feel. Behavior therapists trace what is done to two kinds of selective consequences, innate behavior to natural selection and learned behavior to operant reinforcement.” (p. 75)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 4

” Troublesome behavior is caused by troublesome contingencies of reinforcement, not by troublesome feelings or states of mind, and we can correct the trouble by correcting the contingencies.” (p. 74)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 3

“It has always been difficult to do very much with feelings and states of mind because of their inaccessibility. The environmental variables are often within reach.” (p. 74)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 2

“As more and more of the variables of which behavior is a function are identified and their role analyzed, less remains to be explained in mentalistic ways.” (pp. 73-74)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 7: The Operant Side of Behavior Therapy. Quote 1

” … cognitive psychologists no longer observe the mental processes they talk about. The processes are hypotheses, to be confirmed either by inferences from the behavior they are said to explain or by a different kind of observation, of the Nervous system.” (p. 73)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 13

“Psychology has much to gain by confining itself to its accessible subject matter and leaving the rest of the story to physiology.” (p. 71)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 12

“Unfortunately, references to feelings and states of mind have an emotional appeal which behavioral alternatives usually lack.” (p. 70)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 11

“No one should try to beat a “path from information to action,” because action is the problem and contingencies are the solution.” (p. 69)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 10

“To judge from the psychological literature, there are either many conceptions, largely incompatible, or no clear conception at all.” (p. 68)

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Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 9

“By their very nature, the anti-science stance of humanistic psychology, the practical exigencies of the helping professions, and the cognitive restoration of the Royal House of Mind have worked against the definition of psychology as the science of behavior.” (p. 68)

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By |January 15th, 2019|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 9|

Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 8

“Cognitive psychologists like to say that “the mind is what the brain does,” but surely the rest of the body plays a part. The mind is what the body does. It is what the person does. In other words, it is the behavior, and that is what behaviorists have been saying for more than […]

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By |January 14th, 2019|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 8|

Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 7

” … psychology may find it dangerous to turn to neurology for help. Once you tell the world that another science will explain what your key terms really mean, you must forgive the world if it decides that the other science is doing the important work.” (p. 67)

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By |January 11th, 2019|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 7|

Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 6

“[In an operant analysis,] the environment takes over the control formerly assigned to an internal, originating agent.” (p. 64)

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By |January 10th, 2019|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 6|

Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 5

” Gaps are inevitable in a behavioral account. Stimulus and response are separated in time and space, for example, and so are a reinforcement on one day and stronger behavior on the next. The gaps can be filled only with the instruments and methods of physiology. They cannot be filled by introspection, because there […]

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By |January 9th, 2019|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 5|

Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 4

“Astronomers interpret the waves and particles reaching Earth from outer space by using what has been learned under controllable conditions in the laboratory—for example, in high energy physics. In a similar way we use what has been learned from an experimental analysis to explain behavior which cannot, at the moment at least, be brought […]

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By |January 8th, 2019|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Whatever Happened to Psychology as the Science of Behavior? Quote 4|

Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Professional Issues. Quote 3

“The analysis [of verbal contingencies] does not “ignore consciousness” or bring it back into a behavioral science; it simply analyzes the way in which verbal contingencies of reinforcement bring private events into control of the behavior called introspecting.” (p. 62)
 

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By |January 7th, 2019|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Professional Issues. Quote 3|

Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Professional Issues. Quote 2

“Prompted by Pavlov’s emphasis on the control of conditions, I made sure that all Thorndike’s “errors” were eliminated before a successful response could be made. A single “reinforcing” consequence was then enough; the response was immediately and rapidly repeated.” (p. 62)
 

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By |January 4th, 2019|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Professional Issues. Quote 2|

Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Professional Issues. Quote 1

“Perhaps what is wrong is that behavior has seldom been thought of as a subject matter in its own right but rather as the mere expression or symptom of more important happenings inside the behaving person.” (p. 59)
 

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By |January 3rd, 2019|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 6: Professional Issues. Quote 1|

Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 6

“Behavioral scientists observe three things: the action of the environment on an organism, the action of the organism on the environment, and changes which then follow. There are gaps in that account which only neurologists will eventually fill with their different instruments and techniques.” (p. 56)
 

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By |January 2nd, 2019|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 6|

Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 5

“Very little genetic change can have occurred “in response to cultural history.” Most of science and technology, for example, has evolved during the past 2,500 years. Must we suppose that Aristotle would have had trouble understanding it?” (p. 54)
 

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By |December 31st, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 5|

Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 4

“Because no other species has acquired operant control of the vocal musculature, it must have appeared very late, when human genetics had reached essentially its present state.” (p. 54)
 

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By |December 28th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 4|

Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 3

“The state of the brain due to reinforcement may resemble the state due to natural selection (the observed behaviors can be indistinguishable), but one is due to a gene, in the sense of being explained by natural selection, while the other is due to reinforcement during the lifetime of the individual, and hence, it […]

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By |December 27th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 3|

Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 2

“Once the process of shaping has been recognized, behavior once attributed to feelings and states of mind can be traced to simpler and more readily identified sources.” (p. 50)
 

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By |December 26th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 2|

Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 1

“Although the evolution of behavior remains largely a matter of inference, operant conditioning is studied experimentally, and complex repertoires of behavior are shaped and maintained in strength with appropriate contingencies of reinforcement.” (p. 50)
 

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By |December 24th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 5: Genes and Behavior. Quote 1|

Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 6

“Internal dialogues . . . are often called thinking, but all behavior is thinking, as I argue in the last chapter in Verbal Behavior (1957).” (p. 46)
 

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By |December 21st, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 6|

Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 5

“Bacon, an early experimental analyst, insisted that books follow science. Hypotheses and theories follow data. The contingencies always come first.” (p. 44)
 

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By |December 20th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 5|

Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 4

“The mand frees us from making a response. The tact replaces the discriminative stimulus controlling a response.” (p. 38)
 

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By |December 19th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 4|

Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 3

“Most of my book Verbal Behavior (1957) was about the speaker . . . But if listeners are responsible for the behavior of speakers, we need to look more closely at what they do.” (p. 36)
 

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By |December 18th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 3|

Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 2

“A minor problem is that in using modern English, you find yourself implying the traditional view in the very act of challenging it. Only at special times can you be technical and correct. The rest of the time everyday English must suffice, and you must expect to be accused of inconsistency.” (p. 36)
 

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By |December 17th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 2|

Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 1

“In a behavioral account, the direction of action is exactly reversed. Speakers do not take in the world and put it into words; they respond to it in ways which have been shaped and maintained by special contingencies of reinforcement.” (p. 35)
 

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By |December 14th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 4: The Listener. Quote 1|

Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 10

“Eventually, the body will be more accurately observed in a different way by physiology, especially neurology, but it will then be observed as the product of specifiable contingencies of variation and selection rather than as what was less accurately seen through introspection.” (p. 33)
 

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By |December 13th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 10|

Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 9

“Shall we ever be able to say more about what is felt? Almost certainly not through introspection. We do not have sensory nerves going to relevant parts of the body or any chance of agreeing upon words that refer to private events of any kind.” (p. 33)
 

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By |December 12th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 9|

Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 8

“We are said to have acted rationally when we can give reasons for our behavior, but most of our behavior is not rational in that sense. Contingencies of selection affect our behavior whether or not we recognize them.” (p. 32)
 

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By |December 11th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 8|

Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 7

“A more effective way of restoring belief in oneself [than through reminders of overlooked successes], of course, is to restore successes, perhaps by simplifying contingencies of reinforcement.” (p. 31)
 

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By |December 10th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 7|

Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 6

“A poet “has” a poem in the sense of having written it. It is his poem. Critics will show “influences,” however, and if we knew enough about what the poet had read and done, we could presumably explain the whole poem.” (p. 30)
 

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By |December 7th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 6|

Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 5

“Operant modeling, and the self-observation it facilitates, appears to be exclusively human; reinforcement from the behavior of an imitator is apparently too long delayed to reinforce modeling in other species.” (p. 29)
 

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By |December 6th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 5|

Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 4

“In a behavioral analysis the environment acts first, in either of two ways. As a consequence it reinforces behavior and an operant comes into existence. As a setting it elicits or evokes behavior. Few English words, certainly not person or self, are at home in such a behavioral version.” (p. 29)
 

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By |December 5th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 4|

Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 3

“The English language evolved when it was generally believed that behavior started within the individual.” (p. 28)
 

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By |December 4th, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 3|

Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 2

“Only under special kinds of verbal contingencies do we respond to certain features of our body.” (p. 28)
 

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By |December 3rd, 2018|Skinner's Quote of the Day|Comments Off on Recent Issues. Chapter 3: The Initiating Self. Quote 2|

Some of the books in our bookstore are Name-Your-Price products. We set the minimum from $0 to $0.99, but the amount you actually pay is up to you. Every dollar you add is a donation that will be used to keep B. F. Skinner’s books in print, convert more works into e-book formats, and provide free access to more and more archival material through our website. Dismiss