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.


First International Conference; Italy, 2001

Event Details

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Paper Session #92
Meaning and Verbal Functioning
Friday, November 30, 2001
1:00 PM–1:50 PM
Council Hall
Area: VRB
Chair: Eric V. Larsson (FEAT of Minnesota)
Pierce and Skinner on Meaning
Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
ROY A. MOXLEY (West Virginia University)
Abstract: This address will present the complementary approaches of Skinner and Peirce toward meaning or a behavioristic semantics (Quine's term). Both Skinner and Peirce had strong backgrounds in experimental science, were strongly influenced by Darwin's natural selection, and employed three-term contingencies in an analysis of verbal behavior that emphasized selection by consequences. However, Skinner was primarily interested in meaning for the speaker. This meaning was contained in the contingencies for what the speaker said. Skinner had less to say on meaning for the listener. In contrast, Peirce was primarily interested in meaning for the listener and for a community of listeners in the long run. Peirce's emphasis on consequences in his approach was basic to his pragmatism. Skinner was aware of Peirce's basic position on pragmatism and found it similar to his own views on operant behavior. This raises an interesting question on the extent to which Skinner's views on meaning may have been influenced by his readings of Peirce and his discussions on verbal behavior with those who were familiar with Peirce's work. Some speculative suggestions will be presented. Together, the views of Skinner and Peirce provide a comprehensive behavioristic semantics.
On the Nature and Provenance of Verbal Function-Altering Operations
Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
HENRY D. SCHLINGER (California State University, Northridge)
Abstract: In this paper I present a descriptive conceptual framework for basic conditioning processes and their analogous verbal operations and then speculate about the provenance of the latter. First I conceptualize the processes of classical and operant conditioning (described respectively as the correlation of a CS with a US and of an operant and its corresponding establishing operation and discriminative stimuli with a reinforcer), as altering evocative relationships involving antecedent events -- CSs in classical conditioning and EOs and SDs in operant conditioning. I then describe certain verbal operations, variously called autoclitic frames, contingency- specifying stimuli, relational frames, rules, instructions, etc., that are analogous to the basic conditioning processes because they also alter the evocative relationships by endowing antecedent events with CS-like, EO-like, and SD-like evocative functions. Finally, I speculate on the experiences that might contribute to the emergence of verbal function-altering effects. By classifying these verbal operations as analogs to basic conditioning processes, behavior analysts can begin to provide ultimate explanations of them, thereby bringing into the behavior-analytic purview a group of complex verbal relationships and countering the claim by cognitive psychologists that behaviorists cannot account for these or, indeed, any complex verbal phenomena.



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