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Observation, Language Learning, and Development: The Verbal Behavior Development Theory

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A review of recent applied research in observation suggests researchers could profit from a new account of observational learning. Current research in the identification and establishment of verbal developmental cusps demonstrates the importance of the range of observational cusps necessary for the acquisition of language. These cusps encompass learning through imitation, duplication of outcomes, understanding consequences of observed behaviors, acquiring new reinforcers, incidental unidirectional and bidirectional naming, and more. This account offers solutions to bridge gaps in the literature and complements related research, providing a comprehensive understanding of observational learning processes. This updated account of observational learning is especially relevant when we consider its implications for human language acquisition. In this article, we emphasize that language acquisition is not solely an individual cognitive development, but a socially mediated process, where observation plays a fundamental role in linguistic growth and development.

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All authors contributed to the article’s conception and organization. Sections of this article were written separately by all three authors and later combined by the second author. All authors edited and commented on the first draft prior to submission. All authors contributed to revisions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jessica Dudek.

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Greer, R.D., Dudek, J. & Chang, H. Observation, Language Learning, and Development: The Verbal Behavior Development Theory. Psychol Rec (2024).

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