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About Behaviorism

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  909 ratings  ·  42 reviews
The basic book about the controversial philosophy known as behaviorism, written by its leading exponent.

"A much more effective work than Beyond Freedom and Dignity precisely because it takes more seriously the tradition (or the historical prejudices) of its opposition."
— Robert Kirsch, Los Angeles Times

"About Behaviorism is an opportunity to match wits with one of the grea
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 12th 1976 by Vintage (first published 1974)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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May 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As a doctoral candidate in behavior analysis, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Skinner provides several gems throughout the text that I think I would have missed in my earlier days of studying radical behaviorism. In other words, Skinner often says a lot in a few words. My favorite aspect of this book is Skinner's list of myths and misconceptions about behaviorism which he addresses throughout his writing. Unfortunately, many of these myths and misconceptions are alive and well today. That being ...more
Nov 09, 2007 rated it liked it
If I were to rate this book on how much I learned I would give it 5 stars. Unfortunately, reading dry behaviorist lingo led me to 3 star enjoyment. I will probably read Skinner again because the behaviorism theory is applicable to manipulating change in many aspects of life. Much more useful than reading Freud.
Feb 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-school
Skinner has interesting takes on things like emotion, but ultimately, he's very repetitive and likes to attribute everything to "contingencies." It's borderline amusing how often he uses that word--just don't make a drinking game out of it. ...more
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
"The person with whom we are most familiar is ourself; many of the things we observe just before we behave occur within our body, and it is easy to take them as the causes of our behavior.
What we have learned from the experimental analysis of behavior suggests that the environment performs the functions previously assigned to feelings and and introspectively observed inner states of the organism.
The person who asserts his freedom by saying, 'I determine what I shall do next," is speaki
Aleisha  Zolman
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
found this book at DI for $1. knowing that i am fundamentally a behaviorist at heart, i picked this book up wondering if the source material matched my intuition and actual practice of behavior management that i use in school and on a lesser scale for myself. i found many examples of brilliance and parallel beliefs. for example, i love his rant on intuition vs. reason, explaining that you can certainly act on intuition without knowing the reasons why you are doing/rules that you are following. ( ...more
Feb 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
i read this book as part of a class on radical behaviorism. the class was excellently taught, and i can say it was one of two classes i have taken in my entire college time that changed the way i see the world.

the book is accessible, but also very dense - i am sure that if i had read it by myself, i would have missed out on much of the meaning and many implications.

i feel fortunate that i got to learn so much from reading this exceptional book.
Jonathan-David Jackson
I picked this up thinking it would be about interesting behavioral experiments (like Pavlov's dogs and other salivating animals), but it was instead the driest book I've ever read. I accept that Mr. Skinner knows what he's talking about, but I hardly had any idea of it, and a quarter of the way through the book and after many Zen koans such as (paraphrased) "A man goes to a party not because he feels like going, rather, he feels like going because he goes," I admitted defeat. ...more
Aug 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
This guy knows how to ramble on and on...
Mar 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Behaviorism is either overlooked or executed rigidly. I love this book as an adjunct to my review on the development of psychological thought. It’s the philosophy behind behaviorism and I can’t help but notice its parallels to existentialism. I often overlook behaviorists after reading Watson’s Psychology as The Behaviorist Views It, but I’m glad I picked this up from my dad’s book collection to educate my ignorant mind and gain an appreciation to this school of thought. In an ideal world, I hop ...more
Clare Tissiman connolly
Lots of interesting information but a bit wordy I could have got a higher star rating if it was easier to read but unfortunately it suffered for it.
Michael’ Witthuize
Unfortunately, Skinner was a pretty bad writer. He introduces terms without explaining them and often implicitly makes arguments that contradict the point he seems to be trying to make, unnecessarily, I might add. For example, his explanation of “probable behaviour” in chapter 2 encroaches on the philosophy of mind, something Skinner himself claims is a waste of time, merely because it is philosophy rather than science, the same argument could be made from the perspective of philosophy (which at ...more
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
The father of operant conditioning, B.F. Skinner, explains in the most simplistic terms, his works and beliefs on the field of behaviorism. I thoroughly enjoyed his literature on which he explains that it is not internal processes that cause humans to act, yet it is the environment. The contingencies of the situation that causes human to act. He explains that everything is a product of reinforcement - the consequences of our behaviors are either negatively or positively reinforced. However, I ra ...more
Kelly H
Jan 19, 2020 rated it liked it
I love thinking and learning about behavior and behaviorism, but even for me this book was very dense and slow to read. I am a school psychologist and this took me a long time to read carefully. I found the last few chapters the most helpful. I would not recommend this to a lay person trying to understand the science of behavior. I wouldn't recommend reading the whole thing through for school psychs either, but I would use chapters or excerpts for a course. I did come away with a better understa ...more
Dec 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
Amazing that about behaviorism was seriously considered as academic or scientific in the 20th century let alone after the first millennium AD. His thought processes and logical steps are so sloppy and founded on so many questionable assumptions he makes Aristotle seem rigorously scientific by comparison. The book I read just before this Wealth, poverty, and politics describes this pedantic waste of time perfectly. This book is a definitional example of using fancy words in a nonsensical way to e ...more
Lilith Horner
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
As a fan of B.F skinners behaviourism, (This does not mean I believe it's true, more about my interest in this school of thought) I was happy to read this book. He was one of many influential psychologists that have changed today's way of psychology. His theory consisted of how we are able to train any type of animal through operant conditioning. At one point he was able to make a pigeon superstitious or teaching it to fly a warplane, which was unfortunately shut down due to it leading to unethi ...more
Hellen Moreira
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Skinner is the best. His book, regardless of having been written so many years ago, has a lot of insights that allow us to understand more deeply the way our mind and behavior work. Of course its some way outdated but it does not change the fact that even with so little information he was capable of understanding so much. It's really worth reading. ...more
Monica Willyard Moen
I understand that this book is historically significant in the subject of psychology and behavioral therapy. I understood the points he made. However, I found the writing to be very dry, and the book it’s self felt mind numbingly boring.
Cami Golub (Bookmilla)
at times it was pretty interesting, but sometimes it was so boring...
Justin Han
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A dry book with some very interesting points. Skinner himself is a brilliant man with very wry humor. His contempt for some ideologies in other fields of sciences leaks through his words.
Derek Henderson
Jun 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
An important and enlarging book. Unfortunately, not an easy read.
Conor Mc
Jan 12, 2021 rated it liked it
The major issue with this book, as other users have pointed out, is how it is written. As a text on behaviourism targeted towards the public, it succeeds in content but not in language.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must read for those who study behaviorism.

Also a must read for those who critique behaviorism.
Sehar Moughal
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Second time:

Any one who has qualms about the philosophy of the science of behaviourism should read this book. Anyone who thinks behaviour analysis is a cold way to understand humans should read this book. Anyone who thinks the science of behaviourism is not relevant to the world today should read this book. If you think human behaviour cannot be demystified READ THIS BOOK.
Skinner differentiates between methodological and radical behaviourism - and the role former played in damaging/hindering th
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book was not really what I expected, and neither do i feel that I have a better understanding of behaviorism after reading it. I feel like this book was a response to criticisms of behaviorism, and spent a lot of time comparing behaviorism to other theories...but that I couldn't give a more detailed explanation of behaviorism (no more than what I had in my mind before I read this book.

Tiffany Wilbourn
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Sooo much better than Verbal Behavior and much more readable! A great read to learn more about behavior analysis. Whether you have a behavioristic view or not, Skinner had a brilliant mind and was very articulate.
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book definitely served an interesting perspective on things from the first chapter about the causes of behavior to the last. It was insightful and quite enjoyable. If you are looking for more insight on Behavior, this would be among the first books I would recommend to you.
Feb 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A great primer for those new to the field.
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Love Skinner, love behaviorism, love his writing style. Not as fun as Walden II, but this is a necessary book if you are interested in "inside the box" thinking. haha. ...more
Michael Mcclanahan
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Must read if ones wants to understand how the education system shapes its thinking.
Apr 15, 2014 marked it as to-read
I like this book very much.
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Burrhus Frederic Skinner was a highly influential American psychologist, author, inventor, advocate for social reform and poet. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974. He invented the operant conditioning chamber, innovated his own philosophy of science called Radical Behaviorism, and founded his own school of experimental resea ...more

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