Teaching Science through History
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Freedom from Decision: The Psychology of B.F. Skinner

by Adam Gallagher

B.F. SkinnerPsychologist B.F. Skinner observed pigeons roosting outside his window at the University of Minnesota one day, and this led to him using them in what would later become his most famous series of experiments. The significant but unplanned event epitomizes the unexpected unfolding of his research. This case study follows Skinner from his initial explorations of perceived shortcomings in Pavlov's conditional-response theory. Students follow his emerging thoughts on 'superstition' and ultimately reach his provocative views on human's lack of freedom in decision making. Major NOS elements include:

  • nature of scientific discovery and creativity
  • growth of knowledge and conceptual change
  • scientific ideas and cultural values

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