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B.F. Skinner and Animal Behavior

B. F. Skinner was the most influential psychologist of the 20th Century. He developed the science of operant behavior, based upon the concept of "positive reinforcement" and the importance of the environment on behavior.  He turned behavior "inside out," by replacing the old notion that behavior is determined by internal motivations and processes and by looking for the function of behavior in terms of environmental conditions. Keller and Marian Breland worked with Skinner in his lab at the University of Minnesota in the 1930s and 1940s. Marian was asked to proofread the "galley proofs" of Skinner's first great work, the Behavior of Organisms, in 1938.  In the early 1940s, as part if the war effort, the Brelands assisted Skinner in his famous Project Pigeon, in which they taught pigeons how to guide bombs. They did this work atop a General Mills grain elevator in Minneapolis, pictured below.  Both Keller and Marian left the University of Minnesota without doctorates, planning to apply the powerful procedures they had learned under Skinner to animal behavior. In 1961, when they published their most famous work, they playfully entitled it, The Misbehavior of Organisms.


Photo Gallery (click on each picture to enlarge)