B.F. Skinner's comparative auto- and allo-citation record

Eugene Garfield eugene.garfield at THOMSON.COM
Thu Jul 6 16:31:10 EDT 2006

There are 159 papers by BF Skinner listed in WOS going back to 1930. Analysis of the papers he cited should give you a very large sample of the people he cited in his journal works. The easiest way to do this is to use HistCite software which will organize his cited references in an easy to use list.

Further if you want to go even further with an examination of the papers citing Skinner that is also possible but a big job considering how often he is cited.

Here are the top ten most cited of his WOS listed papers to give you some idea. I am sure that if you go into the cited reference section of WOS you will find even more cites to non-WOS material.

If you want to use HistCite just get in touch with me. EG

When responding, please attach my original message
Eugene Garfield, PhD. email:  garfield at codex.cis.upenn.edu
home page: www.eugenegarfield.org
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-----Original Message-----
From: ASIS&T Special Interest Group on Metrics [mailto:SIGMETRICS at LISTSERV.UTK.EDU] On Behalf Of Stevan Harnad
Sent: Thursday, July 06, 2006 6:00 AM
Subject: [SIGMETRICS] B.F. Skinner's comparative auto- and allo-citation record

On Wed, 5 Jul 2006, Morris, Edward K wrote:

> My student, Tracie Mann, and I are working on a paper on Skinner's
> referencing practices, for which he has been criticized (e.g., too high
> a self-citation rate, too low a rate of citing others). The criticisms,
> however, seem more "in the air" than in print. ... We have searched
> the scientometric literature to little avail...
> do you know of (a) published criticisms of Skinner's citation
> practices and (b) any relevant literature on citation practices? We
> would be beholdened for any information or insights.
> Edward K. Morris, Ph.D.
> Professor and Chairperson
> Department of Applied Behavioral Science
> University of Kansas

Dear Edward,

I know of no published criticism of Skinner's citation practices, and
am aware only of the well-known anecdote, perhaps an urban myth, that
Skinner himself had once said something to the effect that the only
one he reads (hence, presumably, cites) is himself.

It seems to me the only objective way to test this is to recover the
citations from the literature of his day, check both the citations of
and the citations by Skinner's work (both journal articles and books)
and to try to construct a comparable control group of authors in
Psychology at the time, to compare with. One could perhaps do this via
co-citations -- finding authors who are co-cited with Skinner and are
themselves cited at a comparable level (or, failing that, simply other
authors in the same or comparable areas of Psychology who are cited at
a comparable level).

If it turns out that comparably cited (hence comaparbly impactful and
influential) authors cite others significantly more and/or themselves
less, then there is something to the urban myth. If Skinner proves
unique in his stature at the time, however, having no reference
population to serve as a baseline, then -- unless we are prepared to
reach, in desperation, for comparisons in other fields so far-flung as to
cast doubt on comparability -- I am afraid the question may have to remain

My own teacher, Hebb, I know, read and cited very diversely, and
was a contemporary of Skinner's.

ISI's Web of Science probably does not stretch back far enough;
Google Scholar might possibly give an approximation. But perhaps
only APA's Psych Abstracts backfiles, *if* they kept the cited-reference
metadata, offer a hope of a quick answer. Otherwise I'm afraid it's
down to hand-sampling the literature!

Best wishes,


Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

Chaire de recherche du Canada
Centre de neuroscience de la cognition (CNC)
Institut des sciences cognitives (ISC/CSI)
Université du Québec à Montréal
Montréal, Québec,  Canada  H3C 3P8
tel: 1-514-987-3000 2461#
fax: 1-514-987-8952
harnad at uqam.ca

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