Laurence D. Smith, ed. and William R. Woodward, ed.

This book is about the eminent behavioral scientist B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), the American culture in which he lived and worked, and the behaviorist movement that played a leading role in American psychological and social thought during the twentieth century.


From a base of research on laboratory animals in the 1930s, Skinner built a committed and influential following as well as a utopian movement for social reform. His radical ideas attracted much public attention and generated heated controversy. By the mid-1970s, he had become the most widely recognized scientist in America, surpassing even Margaret Mead and Linus Pauling. Yet Skinner himself was an unassuming family man with a modest middle-class background, a machine shop tinkerer whose tastes ran to English and French literature.


Drawing on archival research, interviews, and historical styles appropriate to the evidence, the authors assembled in this volume examine Skinner's remarkable rise to prominence in the wider context of America's intellectual, cultural, and social history.


In the book's introduction, William R. Woodward analyzes Skinner's status as a cultural icon. The first section of the book examines Skinner's role as a social philosopher. Skinner as a scientist is then examined in the second section. The third section concerns itself with Skinner's personal world, and the final section treats the extension and diversification of Skinnerian behaviorism.


In his concluding chapter, Laurence D. Smith assesses Skinner's controversial legacy by showing how he represented both a product of American culture and one of its most provocative critics; as such Skinner personified the deeply conflicting values that have characterized much of twentieth-century American life.


Out of print

0934223408 (AUP)
Lehigh University Press - B.F. Skinner and Behaviorism in American Culture