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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #452
CE Offered: BACB
Reflections on the Role of the Autoclitic in Verbal Behavior Theory
Monday, May 26, 2014
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
W185d (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: VRB/TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Mitch Fryling (California State University, Los Angeles)
Discussant: Mitch Fryling (California State University, Los Angeles)
CE Instructor: Mitch Fryling, Ph.D.

Skinner's (1957) Verbal Behavior moved the concept of language from the realm of information theory and meaning towards an analytical understanding of this behavior. Skinner followed his analysis of behavior into verbal behavior, considering it as any other as a behavior shaped by its contingencies of reinforcement that can be categorized into different operants according to its function. However, verbal behavior has a particular characteristic; it is mediated by the behavior of the listener. In other words, its function depends on the behavior of other organisms that behave with respect to the verbal behavior of the speaker. This created an emphasis on the behavior of the listener for the categorization of verbal behavior leaving little space to analyze the behavior of the speaker. Skinner, aware of this problem, introduces the autoclitic as a way to explain the verbal behavior from the standpoint of the speaker. The autoclitic is perhaps the most controversial of the verbal operants, its structure does not follow the parameters established by the other operants and in some cases it seems dangerously close to a grammatical analysis of verbal behavior. The present symposium aims to discuss some problematic aspects of the autoclitic.

Keyword(s): Autoclitic, Verbal Behavior, Verbal Operants

Self-editing as a Function of Audience Control

DOMINIQUE STEDHAM (University of Nevada, Reno), Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)

Like any behavior, verbal behavior is shaped and maintained in accordance to the contingencies of reinforcement. Although Skinner argues that a speaker does not engage in particular responses in order to produce certain consequences, he describes the process of self-editing as an "additional activity of the speaker" (Skinner, 1957, p. 369). Furthermore, he suggests that "various degrees of editing" occur as a function of special audiences and that certain audiences can be distinguished according to the extent to which a speaker is "released" from editing his verbal responses (Skinner, 1957, p. 394). Yet, in the case of identifying an audience, the physical dimensions are not clear. The audience can serve a discriminative function, yet this discrimination is also subject to generalization and as such, a wide range of audiences may be effective in selecting subdivisions of a repertoire or the topics of discussion (Skinner, 1957, 174). Presumably self-editing can be described in terms of autoclitic behavior, but given that autoclitics can be classified in terms of other verbal operants it should follow that the special case created for them is unnecessary. This paper will argue that the various degrees of editing do not measure the "release from editing," but rather, the effectiveness of that particular audience as a controlling variable for a speaker's verbal behavior.


The Problem of the Intention of the Speaker

MARIA ISABEL MUNOZ BLANCO (University of Nevada, Reno), Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)

Skinner's analysis of verbal behavior is a praiseworthy effort to use a naturalistic approach to a subject matter that has been hindered by cognitive constructs. Skinner introduces eight verbal operants which describe different functions of verbal behavior. The last verbal operant that he describes- autoclitic - is introduced in order to account for the speaker's role on the verbal episode, making the behavior of the listener more effective. In the present paper, autoclitics are discussed in terms of their coherence with other aspects of Skinner's theory and its relation with other verbal operants. It is concluded that the introduction of the autoclitic operant is unnecessary and its functions can be accounted for using other verbal operants and self-editing behavior.




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