The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 163–174 | Cite as

Meaning and Verbal Behavior in Skinner’s Work from 1934 to 1957

  • Maria Amalia Andery
  • Nilza Micheletto
  • Tereza Maria Sério


This paper explores the historical development of Skinner’s treatment of meaning from 1930 to 1957. Twelve papers published between 1934 and 1957, and parts of The Behavior of Organisms and Science and Human Behavior related to verbal behavior, were analyzed. Before 1945 meaning was taken as a property of the verbal response, and from 1945 on, meaning was supposed to be found among the determiners of a verbal response. We argue that these different conceptions of meaning were related to distinct aspects of Skinner’s explanatory system. Finally, the notion of meaning presented by Skinner in 1945 is related to the theoretical breakthrough represented by Skinner’s assertion of the three-term contingency. This idea permitted verbal behavior to be analyzed in terms of its functions.

Key words

verbal behavior meaning Skinner radical behaviorism explanatory system 


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Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Amalia Andery
    • 1
  • Nilza Micheletto
    • 1
  • Tereza Maria Sério
    • 1
  1. 1.Pontifícia Universidade Católica De São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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