Verbal Behavior (book)

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Verbal Behavior (1957) is a book written by psychologist B.F. Skinner in which the author presents his ideas on what is typically called language. For Skinner, speech, or vocal behavior, along with other forms of communication, was simply a behavior.

Skinner argued that each act of speech is an inevitable consequence of the speaker's current environment and his behavioral and sensory history, and derided mentalistic terms such as "idea", "plan" and "concept" as unscientific and of no use in the study of behavior. For Skinner, the proper object of study is behavior itself, analysed without reference to mental structure, but rather with reference to the structure and history of the environment in which particular behaviors occur.

Skinner asserted the premise that Verbal Behavior - behavior under the control of consequences mediated by other people - was best understood in a functional analysis. This functional analysis was a direct product of his basic research using the three-term contingency (discriminative stimulus, response, reinforcement) but also included new terms such as mand, tact, autoclitic, textual, intraverbal, echoic and discussed other factors that would control verbal behavior.

Skinner's ideas in psychology exist in what is now known as The Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Journals that publish works relating to basic and applied research using Skinner's original work as a basis include The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA) and The Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (JEAB).

Skinner's theories in Verbal Behavior are being re-explored in the field of autism. Using Skinner's functional analysis of verbal behavior as a basis for treating autistic children significant, reproducible results have been obtained.

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Verbal Behavior (book)

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