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 #383
Conceptual Analysis and Experimental Evaluation of Skinner's Verbal Behavior
Monday, May 30, 2005
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
Stevens 4 (Lower Level)
Area: VRB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Linda A. LeBlanc (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Four presentations will focus on different conceptual issues, experimental issues, and the existing experimental evidence for Skinner's analysis of Verbal Behavior. The first paper examines the perspectives of the speaker and listener. The second paper focuses on aspects of stimulus control evident in naturalistic language approaches to teaching children with autism. The third paper presents a quantitative review of experimental studies on verbal behavior with humans. The final paper presents experimental methodological challenges in the study of Skinner's analysis and ideas for future investigations.
The Role of Perspective in Classifying Speaker and Listener Behavior
GENAE HALL (Behavior Analysis & Intervention Services)
Abstract: Although Verbal Behavior is said to be a functional account of language from the perspective of an individual speaker, several elementary verbal operants sometimes mediate reinforcement for other individuals and may also be viewed as listener relations. For instance, Skinner writes: “A child in a toy store…asks What is that? and is told A doodler…the child immediately says Buy me a doodler!” (p. 188). From the child’s perspective, saying What is that? is a mand for information and A doodler is a verbal SD in the presence of which the child emits an echoic response (doodler) along with the autoclitic frame Buy me a _____. In saying A doodler, the adult provides the manded verbal SD and thus behaves as a listener. From the adult’s perspective, What is that? (plus pointing) may be a contextual stimulus for a specific type of verbal relation, whereas saying A doodler is a tact. Thus, the classification of a verbal response or response-product depends on the perspective taken. To resolve possible confusion, one might identify the verbal participants as persons A or B (rather than the “speaker” or “listener”), then identify the responses and relevant controlling variables from each perspective.
Conceptualizing Naturalistic Language Interventions from a Skinnerian Perspective
LINDA A. LEBLANC (Western Michigan University), John W. Esch (ESCH Behavior Consultants, Inc.), Tina Sidener (Western Michigan University), Amanda M. Firth (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Modern early intensive intervention programs typically include a mixture of structured teaching situations and naturalistic language interventions, which enhance spontaneity and generality of language of children with autism. The purpose of this paper is to describe naturalistic language interventions for researchers and clinicians who may not be familiar with all of them and to provide a conceptual analysis of these strategies from a verbal behavior perspective. Each strategy is described procedurally and in terms of the relevant verbal operants that are probably addressed (e.g., mands, tacts, intraverbals).
A Review of the Empirical Applications of Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior with Humans
RACHAEL A. SAUTTER (Western Michigan University), Linda A. LeBlanc (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: In 1957, Skinner provided a conceptual interpretation of the controlling variables of language. He defined a particular verbal operant by its functional relations to antecedents and consequences (rather than by topography). Although interest in this area has recently increased, Skinner’s conceptual framework has not yet fully impacted the experimental literature. In addition, there have been many limitations of those empirical studies that have been conducted on the application of Verbal Behavior. This review of the literature examined the studies on verbal behavior that were empirical in nature, concerned with human verbal behavior, and also addressed at least one of the verbal operants within the experiment (mand, tact, echoic, autoclitic, and/or intraverbal behavior). The results of this review suggest that many areas of verbal behavior research have yet to be addressed. Continued research in this area is crucial for the development and implementation of effective verbal behavior interventions.
Is There Empirical Support for Skinner's Analysis of Verbal Behavior?
MARK L. SUNDBERG (Behavior Analysts, Inc.)
Abstract: There has been a long-standing concern over the lack of empirical support for Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior (e.g., Green, 2003; McPhearson, Bonem, Green, & Osborne, 1984; Salzinger, 1978). The question arises as to what type of support is necessary and sufficient to claim that there exists an empirical foundation for the analysis of verbal behavior? There appears to be at least two basic elements that are necessary for claiming that the analysis has empirical support. The first one involves the general scientific status of the basic concepts upon which the analysis is made, while the second addresses data supporting the various distinctions Skinner makes (e.g., the distinction between the elementary verbal operants). The current paper will address these issues, and suggest that even though a substantial amount of research now exists and support is growing, there is much more research that needs to occur before it could be said that the necessary and sufficient empirical support exists. Future research topics will be suggested that may provide further empirical support for Skinner's analysis of verbal behavior.



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