Language is a much sought-after yet elusive subject matter for scientific investigation. Entire fields of study have evolved to address the complexities of language, with most using a structural analysis as the framework for examination. Skinner (Verbal Behavior, 1957) proposed that language fell within the scope of a science of behavior and was therefore open to functional analysis and interpretation. Over the past 60 years, much has been done to further the scientific explanation, prediction, and control of verbal behavior as a function of environmental variables. However, we still need to more accurately describe the subject matter of investigation. The stimulus control ratio equation (SCoRE) is a metric to summarize a behavioral repertoire by comparing the relative frequency of its component parts. The verbal behavior SCoRE compares the observed proportions of responding against the null hypothesis to yield a statistic to describe the present level of functional performance. Such information may be useful for measuring change over time and comparing treatment effects within individuals and across groups. This article provides a conceptualization of the interdependence of the verbal operants identified by Skinner (1957), a model for analyzing the entirety of the verbal repertoire, and implications for research and practice.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
The mand condition is the only one in which a specific reinforcer is provided by the listener. All other verbal operants are maintained by generalized reinforcement to which the individual participant has been conditioned.
If the participant’s vocalizations are hypothesized to be automatically maintained, a control condition, such as those described by Lerman et al. (2005) and Normand et al. (2008), may also be conducted. However, the results of this condition have no direct bearing on the subsequent analyses presented here.
Axe, J. B. (2008). Conditional discrimination in the intraverbal relation: a review and recommendations for future research. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 24, 159–174.
Barbera, M. L., & Kubina Jr., R. M. (2005). Using transfer procedures to teach tacts to a child with autism. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 21, 155–161.
Baum, W. M. (1974). On two types of deviation from the matching law: bias and undermatching. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 22, 231–242.
Beavers, G. A., Iwata, B. A., & Lerman, D. C. (2013). Thirty years of research on the functional analysis of problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46, 1–21.
Bloh, C. (2008). Assessing transfer of stimulus control procedures across learners with autism. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 24, 87–101.
Bondy, A., Tincani, M., & Frost, L. (2004). Multiply controlled verbal operants: an analysis and extension to the picture exchange communication system. The Behavior Analyst, 27, 247–296.
Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.112.1.155.
Coon, J. T., & Miguel, C. F. (2012). The role of increased exposure to transfer-of-stimulus-control procedures on the acquisition of intraverbal behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45, 657–666.
DeLeon, I. G., & Iwata, B. A. (1996). Evaluation of a multiple-stimulus presentation format for assessing reinforcer preferences. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 29, 519–533.
Ding, N., Melloni, L., Zhang, H., Tian, X., & Poeppel, D. (2016). Cortical tracking of hierarchical linguistic structures in connected speech. Nature Neuroscience, 19, 158–164.
Dixon, M. R. (2014). The PEAK relational training system module 1: direct training. Carbondale, IL: Shawnee Scientific Press.
Drash, P. W., & Tudor, R. M. (2004). An analysis of autism as a contingency-shaped disorder of verbal behavior. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 20, 5–23.
Eikeseth, S., & Smith, D. P. (2013). An analysis of verbal stimulus control in intraverbal behavior: implications for practice and applied research. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 29, 125–135.
Everett, D. L. (2012). Language: the cultural tool. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
Ferguson, C. J. (2009). An effect size primer: a guide for clinicians and researchers. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40, 532–538.
Fisher, W. W., Piazza, C. C., Bowman, L. G., Hagopian, L. P., Owens, J. C., & Slevin, I. (1992). A comparison of two approaches for identifying reinforcers for persons with severe and profound disabilities. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 25, 491–498.
Fryling, M. J. (2016). The functional independence of Skinner’s verbal operants: conceptual and applied implications. Behavioral Interventions, 32, 70–78.
Gamba, J., Goyos, C., & Petursdottir, A. I. (2015). The functional independence of mands and tacts: has it been demonstrated empirically? The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 31, 10–38 https://doi.org/10.1007/s40616-014-0026-7.
Goldsmith, T. R., LeBlanc, L. A., & Sautter, R. A. (2007). Teaching intraverbal behavior to children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 1, 1–13.
Grow, L. L., & Kodak, T. (2010). Recent research on emergent verbal behavior: clinical applications and future directions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43, 775–778.
Hall, G., & Sundberg, M. L. (1987). Teaching mands by manipulating conditioned establishing operations. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 5, 41–53.
Hanley, G. P. (2012). Functional assessment of problem behavior: dispelling myths, overcoming implementation obstacles, and developing new lore. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 5, 54–72.
Hanley, G. P., Iwata, B. A., & McCord, B. E. (2003). Functional analysis of problem behavior: a review. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 36, 147–185.
Herrnstein, R. J. (1961). Relative and absolute strength of response as a function of frequency of reinforcement. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 4, 267–272.
Johnston, J. M., & Pennypacker, H. S. (2009). Strategies and tactics of behavioral research (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Keller, F. S., & Schoenfeld, W. N. (1950). Principles of psychology: a systematic text in the science of behavior. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Kelley, M. E., Shillingsburg, M. A., Castro, M. J., Addison, L. R., & LaRue, R. H. (2007). Further evaluation of emerging speech in children with developmental disabilities: training verbal behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 431–445.
Kodak, T., & Clements, A. (2009). Acquisition of mands and tacts with concurrent echoic training. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42, 839–843.
LaFrance, D., Wilder, D. A., Normand, M. P., & Squires, J. L. (2009). Extending the assessment of functions of vocalizations in children with limited verbal repertoires. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 25, 19–32.
Lamarre, J., & Holland, J. G. (1985). The functional independence of mands and tacts. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 43, 5–19.
Lerman, D. C., Parten, M., Addison, L. R., Vorndran, C. M., Volkert, V. M., & Kodak, T. (2005). A methodology for assessing the functions of emerging speech in children with developmental disabilities. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 38, 303–316.
Lovaas, O. I., Koegel, R. L., & Schreibman, L. (1979). Stimulus overselectivity in autism: a review of research. Psychological Bulletin, 86, 1236–1254.
Malott, R. W. (2004). Autistic behavior, behavior analysis, and the gene. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 20, 31–36.
Mason, L. L., & Andrews, A. (2014). Referent-based verbal behavior instruction for children with autism. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 7, 107–111.
McDermott, P. A. (1988). Agreement among diagnosticians or observers: its importance and determination. Professional School Psychology, 3, 225–240.
Michael, J., Palmer, D. C., & Sundberg, M. L. (2011). The multiple control of verbal behavior. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 27, 3–22.
Miller, L. K. (2006). Principles of everyday behavior analysis (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Moran, L., Stewart, I., McElwee, J., & Ming, S. (2014). Relational ability and language performance in children with autism spectrum disorders and typically developing children: a further test of the TARPA protocol. The Psychological Record, 64, 233–251.
Normand, M. P., Machado, M. A., Hustyi, K. M., & Morley, A. J. (2011). Infant sign training and functional analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 305–314.
Normand, M. P., Severtson, E. S., & Beavers, G. A. (2008). A functional analysis of non-vocal verbal behavior of a young child with autism. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 24, 63–67.
Palmer, D. C. (2009). Response strength and the concept of the repertoire. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 10, 49–60.
Partington, J. W. (2006). The assessment of basic language and learning skills—revised (ABLLS–R). Walnut Hill, CA: Behavior Analysts.
Petursdottir, A. I., & Carr, J. E. (2011). A review of recommendations for sequencing receptive and expressive language instruction. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 859–876.
Petursdottir, A. I., Carr, J. E., & Michael, J. (2005). Emergence of mands and tacts of novel objects among preschool children. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 21, 59–74.
Plavnick, J. B., & Ferreri, S. J. (2011). Establishing verbal repertoires in children with autism using function-based video modeling. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 747–766.
Plavnick, J. B., & Normand, M. P. (2013). Functional analysis of verbal behavior: a brief review. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46, 349–353.
Rachlin, H., & Baum, W. M. (1969). Response rate as a function of amount of reinforcement for a signaled concurrent response. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 12, 11–16.
Reed, S. R., Stahmer, A. C., Suhrheinrich, J., & Schreibman, L. (2013). Stimulus overselectivity in typical development: implications for teaching children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 1249–1257.
Rieth, S. R., Stahmer, A. C., Suhrheinrich, J., & Schreibman, L. (2015). Examination of the prevalence of stimulus overselectivity in children with ASD. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 48, 71–84.
Roane, H. S., Vollmer, T. R., Ringdahl, J. E., & Marcus, B. A. (1998). Evaluation of a brief stimulus preference assessment. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 31, 605–620.
Sautter, R. A., & LeBlanc, L. A. (2006). Empirical applications of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior with humans. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 22, 35–48.
Schlinger, H. D. (2008). Listening is behaving verbally. The Behavior Analyst, 31, 145–161.
Shahan, T. A., & Podlesnik, C. A. (2008). Quantitative analyses of observing and attending. Behavioural Processes, 78, 145–157.
Sidman, M. (2009). Equivalence relations and behavior: an introductory tutorial. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 25, 5–17.
Sigafoos, J., Doss, S., & Reichle, J. (1989). Developing mand and tact repertoires in persons with severe developmental disabilities using graphic symbols. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 10, 183–200.
Sigafoos, J., Reichle, J., Doss, S., Hall, K., & Pettitt, L. (1990). “Spontaneous” transfer of stimulus control from tact to mand contingencies. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 11, 165–176.
Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Sundberg, M. L. (2007, May). The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP): field-test data from typical children and children with autism. In Symposium presented at the 33rd Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis International. San Diego: CA.
Sundberg, M. L. (2008). Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program: the VB–MAPP. Concord, CA: AVB Press.
Sundberg, M. L., & Michael, J. (2001). The benefits of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior for children with autism. Behavior Modification, 25, 698–724.
Sundberg, M. L., & Sundberg, C. A. (2011). Intraverbal behavior and verbal conditional discriminations in typically developing children and children with autism. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 27, 23–43.
Sweeney-Kerwin, E. J., Carbone, V. J., O’Brien, L., Zecchin, G., & Janecky, M. N. (2007). Transferring control of the mand to the motivating operation in children with autism. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 23, 89–102.
Vargas, E. A. (1982). Intraverbal behavior: the codic, duplic, and sequelic subtypes. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 1, 5–7.
Watkins, M. W., & Pacheco, M. (2000). Interobserver agreement in behavioral research: importance and calculation. Journal of Behavioral Education, 10, 205–212.
Wolfe, T. (2016). The kingdom of speech. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
In accordance with Springer’s ethical standards, the authors declare that “the research protocols described in this paper were reviewed and approved by the responsible committee on such research, or determined to be exempt from review by the committee.” There are no funding agencies to report for this article. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
About this article
Cite this article
Mason, L.L., Andrews, A. The Verbal Behavior Stimulus Control Ratio Equation: a Quantification of Language. Perspect Behav Sci 42, 323–343 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40614-018-0141-1
- Stimulus control ratio
- Multiple control
- Verbal behavior
- Null hypothesis