Verbal Behavior

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B. F. Skinner Foundation, May 26, 2014 - Psychology - 1025 pages
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.

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Controlling Variables
Multiple Variables
The Manipulation of Verbal Behavior
The Production of Verbal Behavior
Two Personal Epilogues
The Verbal Community
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About the author (2014)

Burrhus Frederic "B. F." Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) is America’s best known behavioral scientist of the 20th century, as well as an influential author, inventor, and social philosopher. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974, and was awarded both National Medal of Science from the National Science Foundation and Humanist of the Year Award from the American Humanist Society. Skinner was a prolific author who published 21 books and 180 articles.

A study that appeared in the July 2002 issue of the Review of General Psychology created a ranking of the 99 most influential psychologists. The rankings were based on three main factors: the frequency of journal citations, introductory textbook citations, and the survey responses of 1,725 members of the American Psychological Association. B.F. Skinner topped the list, ranking ahead of Sigmund Freud.

Recent years have seen increased interest in B. F. Skinner’s works. The sales of his most well-known books are growing every year. For example, despite a fair share of criticism and controversy, Skinner’s 1957 book, Verbal Behavior, draws more interest today than it did 15 years ago. The B.F. Skinner Foundation, the current publisher of this book, has seen the annual sales more than triple from 1998 to 2012. The main reason for the increased sales is most likely the success of Skinner’s analysis for teaching children with autism to communicate effectively.

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