Burrhus Frederic Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) was an American psychologist and author. He conducted pioneering work on experimental psychology and advocated behaviorism, which seeks to understand behavior as a function of environmental histories of reinforcement. He also wrote a number of controversial works in which he proposed the widespread use of psychological behavior modification techniques (primarily operant conditioning) in order to improve society and increase human happiness.

Skinner was born in rural Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. He attended Hamilton College in New York with the intention of becoming a writer and received a B.A. in English literature in 1926. After graduation, he spent a year in Greenwich Village attempting to become a writer of fiction, but he soon became disillusioned with his literary skills and concluded that he had little world experience and no strong personal perspective from which to write. During this time, which Skinner later called "the dark year," he chanced upon a copy of Bertrand Russell's Philosophy in which Russell discusses the behaviorist philosophy of psychologist John B. Watson. At the time, Skinner had begun to take more interest in the actions and behaviors of those around him, and some of his short stories had taken a "psychological" slant. He decided to abandon literature and seek admission as a graduate student in psychology at Harvard University (which at the time was not regarded as a leading institution in that field).

Skinner received a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1931 and remained at that institution as a researcher until 1936. He then taught at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis and later at Indiana University at Bloomington before returning to Harvard as a tenured professor in 1948. He remained there for the rest of his career.

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