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Skinner, Burrhus Frederic

Burrhus Frederic (B. F.) Skinner discovered that behavior can be explained not by intention or will or any other “agency” inside a person, but by the moment-to-moment impact of actions within an individual's world. When Skinner began his research, Pavlov had already shown how responses in a reflex could be brought under control of new stimuli. Pairing a previously neutral stimulus with a stimulus that already produced a predictable response enabled the new stimulus to elicit a similar response. Skinner called such behavior “respondent.” Therapy with respondents, such as fear or anxiety, thus centers on antecedents, as in systematic desensitization. But not all behavior is part of a reflex. Most of what we think of as uniquely human, such as talking, thinking, or creating, ...

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