Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


33rd Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2007

Event Details

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Invited Panel #235
CE Offered: BACB
Verbal Behavior at Fifty: Past, Present, and Future
Sunday, May 27, 2007
1:30 PM–2:50 PM
Douglas C
Area: VRB/TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Mark L. Sundberg (Sundberg and Associates)
CE Instructor: Mark L. Sundberg, Ph.D.
Panelists: JOHN L. MICHAEL (Western Michigan University), A. CHARLES CATANIA (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), TERRY J. KNAPP (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)

Fifty years ago B. F. Skinner published the book Verbal Behavior. The book contains behavioral analyses of the most complex aspects of human behavior such as language, private events, thinking, epistemology, memory, and logical and scientific verbal behavior. In many respects, the core of Skinners radical behaviorism is presented in this book. The members of this panel will discuss the significance of Verbal Behavior in terms of past contributions and controversies, its current usage, and its potential for the field of behavior analysis.

JOHN L. MICHAEL (Western Michigan University)
Dr. Jack Michael was born in 1926 in Los Angeles. He entered the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1943 as a chemistry major, served two years in the army, and returned to UCLA in 1946. He obtained a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. at UCLA, finishing in 1955. As a graduate student, his main interests were statistical methodology, physiological psychology, and learning theory. During his first teaching job (in the Psychology Department at Kansas University), he was much influenced by reading B. F. Skinner's Science and Human Behavior, and since then has been primarily involved in teaching behavioral psychology; at Kansas University, the University of Houston, Arizona State University, and Western Michigan University. At Houston in 1957, as a result of influence by the rehabilitation psychologist, Lee Meyerson, Dr. Michael began to apply Skinner's behavior analysis in the areas of mental retardation, mental illness, and physical disability. During the next several years, as behavior modification went through a period of rapid expansion, Dr. Michael contributed with his teaching, writing, and public presentations. At Arizona State as a result of contact with Fred S. Keller, he became interested in college instructional technology from a behavioral perspective. Most recently, he has been concerned with the technical terminology of behavior analysis, basic theory regarding motivation, and verbal behavior. He contributed to the founding of the Association for Behavior Analysis in 1974 and served as president of that organization in 1979. In 2002 he received the ABA Award for Distinguished Service to Behavior Analysis, and the American Psychological Association Division 25 Don Hake Award for research that bridges the gap between experimental and applied behavior analysis. He is author of a laboratory manual and a number of articles and chapters dealing with basic and applied behavior analysis. He retired from Western Michigan University in 2003.
A. CHARLES CATANIA (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Dr. A. Charles Catania began his career in behavior analysis in fall 1954, when he enrolled in Fred Keller’s course in introductory psychology at Columbia. That course included a weekly laboratory on the behavior of rats, and Catania continued working with rats and pigeons and other nonhuman organisms over subsequent decades. In Spring 2004, having closed down his pigeon laboratory the previous summer, he celebrated his half century of animal lab activity with a classroom rat demonstration in a learning course. He regards the study of nonhuman behavior as essential to our understanding of verbal behavior, because verbal behavior is necessarily supported by a nonverbal scaffolding. That lesson too came from Columbia, where, as a senior, Catania took a seminar on verbal behavior jointly taught by Fred Keller, Nat Schoenfeld, and Ralph Hefferline. Ever since, Catania has been addicted to the field of verbal behavior, teaching courses in it whenever possible. One function of his text, Learning, is to integrate the topics of nonverbal and verbal behavior, which have too often been given separate treatments.
TERRY J. KNAPP (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
Dr. Terry J. Knapp is Professor of Psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His interest in B. F. Skinner’s book, Verbal Behavior, stems from the 1960s, when he was in speech-communication and completed a Master’s thesis on “Communication and Privacy: A Critical Explication of B. F. Skinner’s Analysis.” After Knapp stopped being critical, he took up Skinner’s analysis and sought his doctoral degree under the late Willard Day because of Day’s contributions on the topics of privacy, verbal behavior, and behaviorism.



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