The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 141–150 | Cite as

Understanding and the listener: Conflicting views

  • Ted Schoneberger
Article

Abstract

Skinner’s (1957, 1974) distinction between three senses of the term understanding is presented. For Skinner, a listener understands if she (a) can repeat back to the speaker what he has said; or (b) can respond appropriately; or (c) knows about the controlling variables. Next, a critique of Skinner’s view by Parrott (1984; now L.J. Hayes) is presented. Parrott criticizes the first sense of understanding for simplifying a complex activity; the second for equating understanding with reinforcement mediation; and the third for defining understanding as potential behavior. Next, Parrott’s two alternative views are presented. Understanding is (a) having perceptual responses of things when only their “names” are present, and (b) organizing objects and words into relational networks. Lastly, Skinner’s and Parrott’s views on understanding are evaluated, and Parrott’s views are critiqued.

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Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ted Schoneberger
    • 1
  1. 1.California State UniversityStanislausUSA

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