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.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Symposium #147
CE Offered: BACB
Int'l Symposium - The Evolution of Verbal Behavior in Children
Sunday, May 29, 2005
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Lake Michigan (8th floor)
Area: DEV; Domain: Theory
Chair: R. Douglas Greer (Teachers College and Graduate School, Columbia University)
Discussant: Olive Healy (CABAS Ireland)
CE Instructor: R. Douglas Greer, Ph.D.

There is growing evidence of a developmental trajectory for key verbal capabilities. The evidence comes from research guided by Skinners (1957) theory of verbal behavior and the accomplishment of schools based entirely on scientific practices. The broad verbal developmental factures identified include: listener, speaker, speaker-listener exchanges with others, speaker as own listener (self-talk, conversational units and naming), reader, writer, writer as own reader, and advanced verbal mediation. Many of the capabilities, and related subcomponents identified in this research, are higher order operants or relational frames. Our work in this area began when we first identified missing verbal capabilities in children, which, in turn, led to the identification and induction of pre and co-requisite repertoires. Once the missing verbal capabilities were induced, the children acquired repertories that had not been previously possible. We suggest that new evidence on the role of behavioral and cultural selection in the acquisition of verbal capabilities dismantles accounts of language as instinct. We shall present 2 papers on the evidence and related theories.

The Identification of Verbal Capabilities from A Verbal Behavior Analysis Perspective
DOLLEEN-DAY KEOHANE (Teachers College, Columbia University)
Abstract: Although Skinner’s work is often described as theory, there is now a body of research supporting and expanding the theory. There are over 88 experiments devoted to testing Skinner’s theory as well as a significant body of related work in relational frame theory. Much of our work has been devoted to identifying prerequisite or co-requisite repertoires and scientific tactics that provide ways for children to progress from one verbal capability to the next in a hierarch of verbal independence. We worked our way inductively toward identification of the components and subcomponents within the verbal capabilities suggested by Skinner. We propose that these verbal repertoires represent verbal milestones realized as developmental verbal capabilities.
The Roles of Behavioral and Cultural Selection in the Evolution or Induction of Verbal Capabilities
R. DOUGLAS GREER (Teachers College and Graduate School, Columbia University)
Abstract: I shall describe the evidence that supports the role of behavior selection in the mergence of generative verbal capabilities. The effects of behavior selection, together with the results of natural selection, on the emergence of these capabilities provide the processes that, in turn, allow the establishing operations called on by cultural functions to evoke new verbal capabilities. These explanations will then be contrasted with the prevailing notions of language as instinct. The current evidence no longer permits the linguistic community to ignore the significant roles of behavioral and cultural selection in the evolution of complex verbal behavior in the child or the species.



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