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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #44
CE Offered: BACB
Basic Research on Verbal Behavior
Sunday, May 29, 2016
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Michigan ABC, Hyatt Regency, Bronze East
Area: VRB/EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Bailey Devine (Texas Christian University)
Discussant: David C. Palmer (Smith College)
CE Instructor: Bailey Devine, M.S.

Skinner (1938) wrote of his own work that It is a serious mistake to allow questions of ultimate application to influence the development of a systematic of a systematic science at an early stage (p.441). His analysis of verbal behavior (Skinner, 1957) has generated much applied research, but relatively little basic research. This symposium reminds us of the value of asking and answering questions which may not have immediate applied relevance, because they provide information about uniformities in verbal behavior which lead to practical benefit. Topics include studies on the parity hypothesis, grammar and production of novel prepositional sentences, the effects of blocking verbal behavior on joint-controlled sequencing and a direct replication of Skinners verbal summator experiment.

Keyword(s): grammar, verbal-mediation

Examining the Parity Hypothesis With English-Speaking Undergraduate Students

SAMANTHA BERGMANN (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Tiffany Kodak (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Brittany LeBlanc (University Of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

Skinner (1957) hypothesized that ones vocal pattern is automatically reinforced if it is similar to the vocal patterns of preferred individuals which results in borrowing verbal behavior from the community (p. 164). Palmer (1996) describes this process as parity which occurs when a speaker, who is a competent listener, differentially reinforces his/her own vocal verbal behavior to conform to that of the verbal community. The current study replicates and extends stvik, Eikeseth, and Klintwall (2012) by examining if English-speaking undergraduate students would alter their vocal verbal behavior to conform to an experimenters model of tacts in the passive voice in the absence of socially-mediated reinforcement. Undergraduate students were assigned to either the control group, which was never exposed to modeling; the waiting quietly group, which replicated previous procedures; or the vocal imitation group, which extended previous procedures by including echoic tasks during the wait interval. Participants in the control group had consistent grammatical forms of tacts across phases and rarely engaged in vocal verbal behavior with passive voice, whereas the majority of participants assigned to the waiting quietly or vocal imitation groups showed increased use of passive voice following modeling. However, the degree of change differed across participants. Verbal behavior theoretical implications and future directions will be discussed.

The Production of Novel Prepositional Sentences Following Instruction on Autoclitic Frames
JAMES R. MELLOR (Texas Christian University), Kiley Hiett (Texas Christian University), Anna I. Petursdottir (Texas Christian University), Ruth Anne Anne Rehfeldt (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the effects of multiple exemplar instruction on the production of novel prepositional sentences. A multiple-baseline design was used to assess the effects of instruction on the productivity of novel sentence structures for typically developing 5 year old children. The instruction consisted of showing the participants a variety of cartoon pictures of commonly known animals, arranged so that each animal corresponded to a specific spatial relation with another animal (i.e., below). The participant was then taught to describe the pictures within a particular autoclitic frame (e.g., the X is next to the Y above the Z). There were three autoclitic frames targeted for instruction, with each frame containing prepositional phrases corresponding to the spatial relations of the cartoon animals. Preliminary data indicate that instruction for two of the target frames was sufficient to establish novel production of all three sentences. Implications for the instruction of generative sentence production are discussed.

A Systematic Replication of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Summator

SPENCER GAUERT (University of the Pacific), Stephen Pangburn (University of the Pacific), Matthew P. Normand (University of the Pacific)

The verbal summator was a device created by B. F. Skinner to assess verbal behavior. Skinner's original 1936 verbal summator study was an early attempt to study echoic (originally termed imitative) and intraverbal (originally termed summative) behavior. Extensions of the original study focused on the use of the summator as a diagnostic or assessment tool rather than using it to study the function of verbal behavior. No previous studies have directly replicated Skinner's original experiment. For the current study, researches recorded new samples resembling Skinner's original audio recordings using modern digital recording technology. These samples, like the originals used by Skinner, were arrangements of preverbal sounds that were played slightly distorted at a low volume. During the experimental sessions, we presented random selections of these audio recordings to 30 subjects and asked to report what they heard. The audio samples were repeatedly presented until the subject provided a word or phrase describing what they heard. The resulting data analysis was conducted as described by Skinner (1936). Implications of these results and directions for future research will be identified. Data will be presented on the number of samples, organized by the number of syllables. In addition, data will be presented on the similarity of the collected responses to real speech, as described in Skinner (1936), through the use of Zipf's law analysis. Finally, responses were collected and ranked according to their frequency of occurrence.

The Effects of Blocking Verbal Behavior on Joint-Controlled Sequencing
CAREEN SUZANNE MEYER (California State University, Sacramento), Curtis Clough (California State University, Sacramento), Caio F. Miguel (California State University, Sacramento)
Abstract: The current study evaluated the effects of vocal and motor blocking tasks on sequencing visual stimuli for 12 participants. In Experiment 1, we presented a vocal blocking task while asking participants to sequence pictures that they had learned to vocally tact. In Experiment 2, we presented vocal and motor blocking tasks while asking (vocally or via signs) participants to sequence pictures they had learned to tact vocally or through signs. In Experiment 3, we presented vocal blocking tasks while asking participants to sequence stimuli they learned to tact or that they could match without the need of any verbal behavior. All participants sequenced pictures after learning to tact them vocally or with signs. One of four participants required joint control training for stimuli taught via hand signs. Vocal blocking prevented accurate sequencing on both vocal and hand signed sequences, but not sequences established via matching. Combined results suggest vocal blocking procedures may serve to prevent verbal behavior that could be mediating non-verbal sequencing, and that joint control training may not be necessary for adults to perform the sequencing task.



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