General Psychology 11:00 TR FALL 2010


Alfred Kinsey
By Lauren Abernathy & Jesse Rhea

Alfred Kinsey is best known for his work in human sexuality. He founded the Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University in 1947.


Early Life, Education & Beginning Career
-Kinsey was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on June 23rd, 1894. He was oldest of three children. His family struggled with poverty and often could not afford proper health care for their children, which caused Alfred to become exposed to several diseases including rickets.

-Kinsey’s parents were strict Conservative Christians and barred Kinsey and his siblings from having relationships with the opposite sex and prohibiting them knowing of anything sexual, which is ironic considering what Kinsey went on to do in his later life. Most of his friendships were from the Methodist church they went to and Sunday became their family’s day for prayer. When Kinsley got older he disowned the Methodist church and became an Atheist.

-Something Alfred’s parents allowed him to participate in was the Boy Scouts, which at the time was known for being faith based. Kinsey was able to earn his Eagle Scout rank in just two years, opposed to the five or six it would normally take.

-In high school, Kinsey was not involved in sports. Instead he devoted his time to academics and the piano. At one point he had wanted to become a concert pianist but chose to pursue science instead. Kinsey never really formed strong social relationships but was known and regarded for his academic achievements. Kinsey became interested in biology, botany and zoology. Kinsey later said that his high school biology teacher, Natalie Roeth, was the most important influence on his decision to become a scientist.

-After graduating high school, Kinsey told his father he wanted to study botany at college. His father was not happy and demanded me study engineering at a technology institute in Hoboken. Kinsey went, but later said he was very unhappy with the time he spent. At Stevens, he primarily took courses related to English and engineering, but wanted to satisfy his interest in biology. At the end of two years at Stevens, Kinsey gathered the courage to confront his father about his interest in biology and his intent to continue studying at Bowdoin College in Maine. His father vehemently opposed this, but finally relented. It was soon after this incident however that Kinsey and his father would grow apart and lose their relationship which deeply troubled Kinsey for years.

-Kinsey eventually obtained a doctorate and moved to Bloomington, Indiana, and began work as an assistant professor at Indiana University in 1920 in the zoology department. Kinsey worked for the next 16 years on research about gall wasps.

-As for Kinsey’s personal life, he married Clara Bracken McMillen in 1921. They had four children together.

Kinsey’s Research
-In 1938, Kinsey began studying human sexuality focusing on sex and marriage. During his research he was shocked over the inaccuracy and lack of scientific detail, and in his mind, the lack of honesty. He designed a course in which students were to take in-depth questionnaires. He felt the questionnaires soon became inappropriate and full of errors. Thus, he decided to ask students one-on-one. The class became such a hit that 400 students enrolled per semester.

-Kinsey became engrossed in his research and soon took his study to townspeople. In the beginning his trips were only on weekends, but they soon became more frequent and his time on campus decreased. Many of his colleagues and students who wanted to take the course became angered, causing Kinsey to have to stop his traveling. During this work he developed a scale measuring sexual orientation, now known as the Kinsey Scale which ranges from 0 to 6, where 0 is exclusively heterosexual and 6 is exclusively homosexual; a rating of X, for asexual, was added later by Kinsey's associates.

-During the 1940s, Kinsey embarked on a study of the sexual habitats of men and women. His resources were limited and he had to fund most of the study himself, but in 1943 he received a $23,000 grant to expand his efforts and hire staff. His first book, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” was published in 1948. The funding and huge success of the book help lead to the Institution for Sex Research at Indiana University. In 1953, his second book, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female” was published. Both his books are also known as “The Kinsey Reports.” Kinsey’s fame grew largely after these publications, but with fame comes controversy. Many weren’t happy and felt the publications and research was driven by his own sexual needs. Kinsey was also said to have filmed his co-workers engaged in sex acts in his attic for research and spoke of pre-adolescent orgasms.

-Alfred Kinsey died on August 25th, 1956, at the age of 62. The cause of his death was a heart ailment and pneumonia.

B.F. Skinner
By Torey Taylor

-Early Age
American Psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner (B.F. Skinner) was born March 20, 1994 in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. He attended Hamilton College in New York and also Harvard University. At a younger age, Skinner looked to become a writer and not until later decided to head his career in the psychology direction.


-Contributions to Psychology
Skinner was considered a behaviorist. Instead of studying the idea of inner thoughts and feelings, he studied how consequences shape behavior. He also had a wide variety of odd experiments. One of his most famous was teaching pigeons very uncharacteristic behavior. He taught them to walk in a figure eight, keeping a missile on course by pecking at a target screen, and playing ping-pong.

One of his most successful experiments was his study of operant conditioning and his operant chamber, also known as the Skinner box.

These boxes would typically have a sort of animal (more than likely a rat, but other animals have been used), a light, a bar for the animal to press, a food dispenser, water, and a speaker. The boxes were mainly only soundproof to avoid any distractions to the subject that was being tested.

During the test, the animal would use the lever or release for a reward consisting of water or food.

Skinner used these test to study operant conditioning, a type of learning in which behavior is strengthened if followed by a reinforcer or diminished if followed by a punisher. Skinner also used these studies to discover the concept of a reinforcement, an event that strengthens a preceding response.

Shaping behavior was also a big part of Skinner’s discoveries. He insured that both positive and negative reinforcers strengthen the behavior. Positive reinforcers strengthens a response by presenting a positive stimulus after a response, negative remove something desired. Also, he helped lead to the idea of primary and conditioned reinforcers. Primary reinforcers are reinforced by obtaining a biological need. Conditioned gains its reinforcement by linking itself with a primary reinforcer.

Skinner also had many other interesting inventions. He invented the baby tender to help his wife with the raising of children. The air crib was considered very controversial because of the mistreatment it was considered by trying to make childcare much more simple by trying to reduce laundry and help develop the baby.

Another of Skinner’s most famous inventions was his creation of teaching machines. He thought of the idea of the teaching machine while attending a fourth grade class of one of his children. He believed the teachers were teaching wrongly, thus gave him the idea of his machine. The machine would give questions the student already knew, but would give feedback after answering each question, instead of a whole page like the teacher would give. Skinner’s idea of teaching machines are still used today, but have been developed drastically.

-Later Life
Skinner was considered to be one of the most influential psychologist of the 20th century. He was a professor at many universities and was married to Yvonne Blue in 1936. Skinner had two daughters with Blue and after a very successful life, died of leukemia on August 20, 1990. Many ideas and discoveries of Skinner influenced many theories and inventions today.


Heidi Rumback

John B. Watson


Dr. John B. Watson, an American psychologist, developed the theory of behaviorism. John Watson was born on January 9, 1878. While Watson grew up in Travelers Rest, South Carolina until the age of 16 when he begin attending Furman University. After turning 21, Watson left Furman University with a masters degree. A couple of years went by and Watson decided to major in Philosophy at the University of Chicago. While attending the University of Chicago, he decided to work with a known psychologist James Roland Angell. Watson became influential with the idea and philosophy of behaviorism. Later in 1903 he received his doctorates in Psychology. Finally in 1907, Watson was offered a position as a professor in psychology at John Hopkins University. After, Watson started working he began laboratory research on rats, proving that behaviorism is a science and has something to do with heredity. Later in 1914 he began his first major work called “Behavior: An Introduction to Comparative Psychology,” in this book Watson argues “That animal subject in psychological study and describe instincts that reflex to heredity.”

By 1920 Watson and an assistant graduate student, Rosalie Rayner, began to conduct an experiment called “Little Albert” in which he chose an 11- month old baby boy and put white furry objects in front of Albert. The experiment consisted of conditioning Albert to be fearful of a white rat by making a sound. During this experiment Albert became not only fearful of white rats but also bunnies and a Santa Clause Beard, that Watson wore. During this experiment, he had an affair with Rayner; soon after the scandal he divorced his first wife Mary Ickes, and also resigned from John Hopkins University. After resignation, Dr. Watson began working in the field of business. On September 25, 1958 he passed away, but before he died he burned all of his papers and articles so no one else would steal his ideas. Dr. Watson left an enduring legacy that helped other psychologist with the study of Behaviorism.


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