Article ID: CBB127918561

Psychological operationisms at Harvard: Skinner, Boring, and Stevens (2021)


Contemporary discussions about operational definition often hark back to Stanley S. Stevens' classic papers on psychological operationism. Still, he was far from the only psychologist to call for conceptual hygiene. Some of Stevens' direct colleagues at Harvard—most notably B. F. Skinner and E. G. Boring—were also actively applying Bridgman's conceptual strictures to the study of mind and behavior. In this paper, I shed new light on the history of operationism by reconstructing the Harvard debates about operational definition in the years before Stevens published his seminal articles. Building on a large set of archival evidence from the Harvard University Archives, I argue that we can get a more complete understanding of Stevens' contributions if we better grasp the operationisms of his former teachers and direct colleagues at Harvard's Department of Philosophy and Psychology.

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Authors & Contributors
Feest, Uljana
Schultz-Figueroa, Benjamín Alberto
Chirimuuta, M.
Stamp, Shelley
David Sliski
Johnson, Ann
History of Psychology
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Journal for the History of Astronomy
Nuove Edizioni Romane
University of California, Santa Cruz
Libraries and archives
Primary literature (historical sources)
Women in science
Film and media studies
Boring, Edwin Garrigues
Stevens, Stanley Smith
Bryan, Alice Isabel
Gilbreth, Lillian Moller
Howes, Ethel Puffer
Goodenough, Florence Laura
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
19th century
18th century
United States
Harvard University
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelon
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
University of Akron
University of Edinburgh

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