The Verbal Behavior Stimulus Control Ratio Equation: a Quantification of Language

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    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.

  2. 2.

    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.

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Correspondence to L. L. Mason.

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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

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Keywords

  • Stimulus control ratio
  • Multiple control
  • Verbal behavior
  • Null hypothesis