B.F. Skinner's Nose Cone of a Pigeon-Guided Missile


During World War II, the U.S. military needed to find accurate ways to guide missiles to their targets. University of Minnesota psychologist B. F. Skinner suggested that a missile nose cone be supplied with three compartments, each with a window. A pigeon would be placed in each section, and trained to peck on the window when the target appeared. If all three pigeons pecked, the weapon would be released. This prototype was never developed, but influenced later work on animal training.

For a discussion of the instrument, see James Capshew, “Engineering Behavior: Project Pigeon, World War II, and the Conditioning of B. F. Skinner,” Technology and Culture, Vol. 34, No. 4, Special Issue: Biomedical and Behavioral Technology (Oct., 1993), pp. 835-857.

Date Made: 1940s

Maker: Skinner, B. F.

Location: Currently not on view

Subject: Birds

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Mathematics, Military, Teaching Machines, Science & Mathematics


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of B. F. Skinner

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1981.0997.02Accession Number: 1981.0997Catalog Number: 1981.0997.02

Object Name: psychological apparatus

Physical Description: metal (overall material)wood (overall material)Measurements: overall: 64 cm x 57 cm x 58.5 cm; 25 3/16 in x 22 7/16 in x 23 1/16 in

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a5-0fc4-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_690069

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