Sometimes I read about the lives of influential people to see how they got to where they got. Here’s what my counseling textbook says about B.F. Skinner, who was one of the major theorists of behaviorism:
As a young adult, Skinner wanted to be a writer. He majored in English literature at Hamilton College, where he earned Phi Beta Kappa honors and graduated in 1926. Back home he set about the task of writing, having been encouraged in his efforts by Robert Frost. After a year he moved to New York’s Greenwich Village to live among writers and benefit from a stimulating environment. There he discovered the works of Ivan Pavlov and John B. Watson, as well as those of Bertrand Russell and Francis Bacon. Soon he gave up his writing ambitions to become a psychologist, although he had never taken a psychology course in college. He was accepted for graduate study at Harvard, where he received a master’s degree in 1930 and a Ph.D. in 1931. After another 5 years of postdoctoral training, he joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota in 1936…
Man, how things have changed. Dude with a degree in English and NO psych courses, let alone research experience, gets into HARVARD two years after graduating from college. Then he just continues on his merry way and gets a PhD and the rest is history.
Skinner was undoubtedly a brilliant man, but the system just wouldn’t allow for that today.