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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 378

Almost all major problems involve human behavior, and they cannot be solved by physical and biological technology alone. What is needed is a technology of human behavior.

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In the above quote, Skinner argues for the importance of his theory of behaviorism, the idea that conditioning and reinforcement are able to modify human behavior in beneficial ways. Skinner believed scientific methods could be applied to humans to build a better and more rational society.

A person who has been punished is not thereby simply less inclined to behave in a given way; at best, he learns how to avoid punishment.

Skinner did not believe individuals were autonomous beings with free wills who could make their own decisions and be held responsible (punished) for misbehavior. He emphasized instead the positive reinforcement of socially desirable behaviors as well as training in beneficial behaviors, such as impulse control and self discipline.

A scientific view of man offers exciting possibilities. We have not yet seen what man can make of man.

Skinner believed applying science to human behavior would open up exciting new vistas in engineering a better, even a utopian, society. He thought we were at the dawn of a new age in structuring society. Social engineering would no longer be haphazard, with social environment merely seen as a backdrop, but the impact of environment on the individual would be foregrounded and controlled.

By questioning the control exercised by autonomous man and...

(The entire section contains 378 words.)

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