Verbal Behavior (VB) began as a 1957 book by psychologist B.F. Skinner that analyzes human behavior encompassing what is traditionally called language, linguistics, or speech. For Skinner, verbal behavior is simply behavior subject to the same controlling variables as any other operant behavior, although Skinner differentiates between verbal behavior which is mediated by other people, and that which is mediated by the natural world. A growing body of research and applications based on Verbal Behavior have occurred since its original publication particularly in the past decade.
The science of Verbal behavior believes in teaching and generalizing all the meanings of a word. For example, if you are teaching a child about an"apple," you must have the child complete the following steps before the item is considered mastered:
- Manding (Requesting)
- Tacting (Expressively Labeling)
- Echoic (Vocal Imitation)
- Intraverbal (Answering a question, What is your favorite fruit?)
- Receptive (Understanding, non-verbal comprehension)
- RFFC (Receptive Labeling by Feature, Function, and Class)
Generalization occurs in steps and prevents the child from just learning how to only expressively label "apple" or how to only identify apple among pictures and places. Verbal behavior places more emphasis on day to day involvement and understanding of what apple is in context, versus teaching information out of context, hence making the teaching more functional.