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.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Paper Session #431
Conceptual Issues in Verbal Behavior
Monday, May 31, 2010
1:30 PM–2:50 PM
214C (CC)
Area: VRB
Chair: Sam Leigland (Gonzaga University)
Intention Attribution and the Functional Analysis of Psychological Terms
Domain: Theory
PAUL D. NEUMAN (Bryn Mawr College), Suzanne Mischell Nangle (Bryn Mawr College)
Abstract: The act of attributing attention has been the focus of theoretical and empirical papers across disciplines both within and outside the fields of psychology and science. “Intention” has been defined and measured in a variety of ways. While these assorted meanings may provide conversational distinctions in what one may mean when uttering, “I intend to”, few studies have discretely addressed the circumstances that occasion one to attribute intention when observing behavior. In 1945, Skinner described the importance of a functional analysis of verbalizations in “The Operational Analysis of Psychological Terms”. In this climate of science versus clinical practice (Beutler, 2009), there continues to remain great importance in defining and measuring the terms of our psychological language. The current study proposes to identify the functional relations involved in the attribution of “intention” and “intentionality”. Based on several theoretical papers (Neuman, 2007; Leigland, 1996) and empirical work (Leigland, 1989), we propose that attribution of intention is based on observed behavior and the consequences of that behavior. Undergraduate students observe a series of interactions and identify instances of behavior involving intention or intentionality. Behavior and its consequences are varied with the prediction that the attributions of intentions will vary accordingly.
Varying Time Scales in the Control of Mentalistic Verbal Behavior in Human Observers
Domain: Experimental Analysis
SAM LEIGLAND (Gonzaga University)
Abstract: Issues of molar versus molecular analyses of behavior, or more generally, the issue of multiscaled analyses of behavior, may have special relevance to verbal behavior. To examine and illustrate some of the effects of multiple time scales in the analysis of verbal behavior, data will be presented from a study involving the evocation of mentalistic terms in human observers. Specifically, ten college undergraduates were instructed to watch an animated simulation of a rat pressing a lever in real time. The conditions of observation involved the animated rat’s lever press response maintained on a FI 60-sec. schedule, with standard steady-state response patterning during the intervals (pause-acceleration with variations). Participants were asked to make statements using whatever language they preferred and whenever and as often as they preferred about what the rat “knows” about the situation. Results show examples of the control of the mentalistic statements over various time scales of the interactions being observed. The results have implications regarding the interpretation of verbal behavior and controlling variables under conditions of observation that favor the emission of tacts, and the use of multiscaled analyses of verbal behavior in time.
Skinner's Analysis of the Verbal Community
Domain: Theory
MARK L. SUNDBERG (Sundberg and Associates)
Abstract: Skinner used the term, “verbal community” (or variations of that term) 286 times in his book Verbal Behavior (1957). He also included a ten-page Appendix titled “The Verbal Community” at the end of the book. Throughout the book Skinner attributes the primary causes of verbal behavior to the actions of a verbal community, and in the Appendix he attributes the origins of human language to the behavior of the verbal community. Clearly, the verbal community plays an important role in Skinner’s analysis of language. However, in the Appendix he states that “A functional analysis of the verbal community is not part of this book” (p. 461), which might seem inconsistent at first glance. The current paper will examine Skinner’s analysis of the verbal community, and identify its role in the origin, development, and emission of verbal behavior.



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