Did Harvard Professor in Psychology B.F. Skinner invent Online Self Help Coaching?
The famous pschologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 till 1974, was probably the first to use machines to change human behavior. He was not only the ‘father’ of important concepts in psychology like ‘operant conditioning’, but he also the first to develop machines that are designed to shape and change human behavior and develop new habits.
He studied the laws of operant conditioning with his famous “Skinner box”. Later he developed his first ‘teaching machine’, long before internet and personal computers were invented. He proved that machines can help humans correct behavior and develop new habits. In the following video, you can see how skinner used his teaching machine to teach students in a school.
Skinner promotes the idea that self-correction and self-learning are potentially less frustrating and more rewarding for future generations of students.
I share this video with you, because of the similarities with what I encountered in the development of our online self help tools. I remember that when i talked about the idea of developing such a system 10 years ago, people – including psychologists – declared this to be crazy. Now it becomes a mainstream idea that people can help themselves with the help of the right tools.
Probably this is the difference with a genius and a normal person. A genius can see things several decades before others can see it. Skinner clearly had this visionary capacity of a genius.