Ep 228 (video): Did B.F. Skinner Raise His Children in a Skinner Box?

MichaelDevelopment, Learning/MemoryLeave a Comment

You may have heard this rumor about B.F. Skinner raising his children in one of his (presumably oversized) “Skinner boxes”. Is there any truth to this? Related rumors: that Skinner’s daughter became mentally ill as a result of being raised in this box and that she sued her father when she became an adult. We finally find the answer to this long held belief in this fictional interview with B.F. himself (the audio is really Skinner talking).


…Ladies Home Journal ran a piece on the new crib in 1945…The title of the article, “Baby in a Box” as well as Skinner’s use of the word “experimental” to describe the experience likely contributed to public skepticism about the device.. The image accompanying the article was similarly damaging; it showed Deborah enclosed within the crib, peering out with her face and hands pressed up against the glass. In addition, select parts of the article were reprinted in other major outlets. As a result, many readers did not get the entire story. Some began to make inferences about the nature of the crib based on the much more famous Skinner box. The air crib therefore became associated with rewards, pellets, levers, and the like. – Joyce and Faye

More on B.F. Skinner

More Psychology Episodes Using Animation

How I Created This Animation

There were a lot of steps to putting this video together, but here’s a rough outline of the key steps and the software I used (I’m using a Mac so you may have to find PC alternatives to the programs mentioned below):

  1. Get a picture of the person you want to animate. I downloaded a public domain photo from Wikipedia. Also, you may find useful resources on Archive.org site.
  2. Using a photo-editing software such as Photoshop Elements ($100), or Acorn ($50), remove the background of the image so that you have just the person. I just used the eraser tool to erase around the person’s body. Save this image as a .png file.
  3. Get or create the audio. I found videos of Skinner talking on YouTube and then used an audio capture program called Audio HiJack Pro ($30) (mac) to record and save just the audio part of the video to my computer.
  4. Edit the audio you’ve just saved so that you have an audio file (.mp3, .wav or .aif) containing the most relevant part of what the person said. I used Amadeus Pro ($30) as my audio editor, though the free Audacity program will work too.
  5. Use Crazy Talk to create the animation. Open a new project and import the .png image from step 2, then import the audio file from step 4. You’ll have to learn to set up Crazy Talk so that it knows where the eyes are, where the nose is, etc.
  6. Crazy Talk will create the animation and lip synch the image with the audio. Export this animation as a video.
  7. Record video of yourself using your smartphone or use a program like iMovie, Camtasia or ScreenFlow to combine videos of the different characters.
  8. Export your project as a .mp4 file and voila!
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