B.F. Skinner, the Harvard psychologist whose experimental work with pigeons and rats helped shape the school of behavioral psychology, died Aug. 18. He was 86.
Dr. Skinner was controversial for his theory that human behavior could be modified according to scientific principles to create a better world. He developed the so-called "Skinner box," or operant-conditioning device, in which animals were punished or rewarded for their behavior.
Much of Dr. Skinner's worked served as the basis for behavior-modification programs and techniques with humans. His lab worked convinced him that a behavior could be broken down into component parts, with rewards offered when each part was learned. This theory of "successive approximation" has been used to make it easier for learning disabled people to master new tasks.
It also bore fruit in a "teaching machine" Dr. Skinner developed to teach reading.ts were rewarded when they made ever-closer approximations to the correct answers. While the machine never caught on, some of its applications can be found in educational software today.
John M. Stalnaker, a psychologist and educator who was the founding president of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, died Aug. 19. He was 87.
While working as an administrator at Stanford University, Mr. Stalnaker set up the Pepsi-Cola Scholarship Board, a $2-million program that was the forerunner of the National Merit Scholarships program. When the Merit Scholars program was established by the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation in 1955, he was named its first president, a position he held until his retirement in 1969.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy appointed Mr. Stalnaker to the Board of Foreign Scholarships, which supervised educational exchange programs under the Fulbright-Hays Act.