In 1934, at the age of 30, B. F. Skinner found himself at a dinner sitting next to Professor Alfred North Whitehead. Never one to lose an opportunity to promote behaviorism, Skinner expounded its main tenets to the distinguished philosopher. Whitehead acknowledged that science might account for most of human behavior but he would not include verbal behavior. He ended the discussion with a challenge: "Let me see you," he said, "account for my behavior as I sit here saying, 'No black scorpion is falling upon this table.'"
The next morning Skinner began this book. It took him over twenty years to complete. This book extends the laboratory-based principles of selection by consequences to account for what people say, write, gesture, and think. Skinner argues that verbal behavior requires a separate analysis because it does not operate on the environment directly, but rather through the behavior of other people in a verbal community. He illustrates his thesis with examples from literature, the arts, and sciences, as well as from his own verbal behavior and that of his colleagues and children. Perhaps it is because this theoretical work provides a way to approach that most human of human behavior that Skinner ofter called Verbal Behavior his most important work.
Other editions - View all
acquired alliteration analysis appears appropriate audience automatic reinforcement automatic writing aversive stimulation B. F. Skinner black scorpion called Chapter characteristic child circumstances consequences controlling variables correspondence covert behavior described discussed distorted echoic behavior editing effect emitted emotional evoke example fact form of response formal frequently given human behavior important instances intraverbal behavior intraverbal responses language listener’s literary logical mand meaning metaphorical extension metonymical minimal repertoire minimal unit multiple causation object occasion occur one’s onomatopoetic pattern possible practical present probability prompt properties punishment react relevant respect result scientific sense sentence similar simply situation someone sort sources of strength speak speaker and listener specific speech stimulus control strengthening subvocal T. S. Eliot tact talking textual behavior textual response thematic usually verbal behavior verbal community verbal environment verbal operant verbal repertoire verbal response verbal stimulus vocal behavior word writing written