The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 11–22 | Cite as

Verbally-governed and event-governed behavior

  • Ernest A. Vargas


A number of statements prescribe behavior: apothegms, maxims, proverbs, instructions, and so on. These differing guides to conduct present varieties of the dictionary definition of “rules.” The term “rules” thus defines a category of language usage. Such a term, and its derivative, “rule-governed,” does not address a controlling relation in the analysis of verbal behavior. The prevailing confounding of a category of language with a category of verbal behavior appears related to a lack of understanding as to what distinguishes verbal behavior from other behavior. Verbal behavior is a behavior-behavior relation in which events are contacted through the mediation of another organism’s behavior specifically shaped for such mediation by a verbal community. It contrasts with behavior that contacts events directly, and shaped directly by the features of those events. Thus we may distinguish between two large classes of behavior by whether it is behavior controlled by events, or behavior controlled verbally. However, the functional controls operative with both classes of behavior do not differ.


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Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernest A. Vargas
    • 1
  1. 1.West Virginia UniversityUSA

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