Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

The Camouflaged Reinforcer for Learning to Talk, Read, Write/Think

R. Greer (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)

Invited Tutorial



Biography:Doug Greer is Professor of Psychology and Education at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Teachers College of Columbia University. He has served on the editorial boards of 10 journals, published over 200 research and theoretical articles in more than 21 journals and is the author or coauthor of 14 books. Two of his most recent books are translated into Korean, Spanish, Chinese, and Italian. Greer has sponsored 252 doctoral dissertations, taught over 2,000 teachers and psychologists, originated the CABAS? model of schooling used in the USA, Ireland, Italy, England and founded the Fred S. Keller School ( He has done basic and applied experimental research in schools with students, teachers, parents, and supervisors as well as pediatric patients in medical settings. He and his colleagues have identified verbal behavior and social developmental cusps and protocols to establish them when they are missing in children. He is a recipient of the Fred S. Keller Award for Distinguished Contributions to Education from the American Psychology Association, a Fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), the ABAI award for International Contributions to Behavior Analysis, and is recipient of May 5 as the R. Douglas Day by Westchester County Legislators and the Jack Michael Award for Contributions to Verbal Behavior. He has served as guest professor at universities in China, Spain, Wales, England, Japan, South Korea, India, Ireland, Germany, Italy, USA, and Nigeria.


Abstract: Research that identified how children develop verbal behavior from experience located some of the stimulus control for learning names, their functions, and their many attributes as the network of relations expand. The learned reinforcers for the sequence of verbal developmental cusps evolve into bidirectional verbal operants. One of these (i.e., Incidental Bidirectional Naming or Inc-BiN) allows children to learn language relations without instruction or the delivery of reinforcement, rather the reinforcer resides in the effects of the behavior. Once this veiled reinforcement for relating stimuli crossmodally (i.e., overarching reinforcement for parity across listening and speaking) becomes part of the child’s community of reinforcers, EXPOSURE ALONE results in the accumulation of more complex relations. Some more complex relations include incidentally learning unfamiliar stimuli relations along with learning them from exclusion, including arbitrarily applicable relations. When this cusp joins reading and writing, contact with print results in listening and writing is speaking. Recent research found that children’s difficulties with reading, writing, or computing are often traceable to the lack of, or weak, stimulus control with the lnc-BiN cusp and is fixable by addressing reinforcement stimulus control for this or a developmentally earlier cusp.


Modifed by Eddie Soh