Verbal Behavior (VB)
What is Verbal Behavior Therapy (VB)
Verbal Behavior (VB) is an intervention based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) which focuses on verbal communication. This intervention was developed through the work of B.F. Skinner. In his book Verbal Behavior, Skinner defines verbal behavior as behavior that is reinforced through the mediation of another person’s behavior. The unit analysis is the functional relationship between a type of responding and the same independent variables that control nonverbal behavior, namely, motivative variables, discriminative stimuli, and consequences that have followed that type of responding. Skinner referred to this analysis of VB, as a group of verbal operants, or functional units of language.
Skinner explained that language could be analyzed into a set of functional units, with each type of operant serving a different function. These operants include Echoics, Mands, Tacts, and Intraverbals. The intervention program focuses on separately training each verbal operant with greater emphasis on mand and intraverbal relations. These components of language are necessary for effective verbal communication. Skinner, along with many other researchers, theorized that these components of language are necessary for complete understanding, generalization, and mastery of language. Skinner’s verbal operants are fairly simple and readily understood in terms of basic behavioral principles: reinforcement, motivative variables, discriminative stimuli and response forms.
With deliberate use of reinforcement, individuals can be taught to make eye-contact, to follow receptive instructions and engage in reciprocal conversations, to name a few. An important contribution of this approach is a training focus on the verbal operants as separate functional units. These units are used as a base for building more advanced language behavior. The tasks become increasingly more complex as the individual learns to perform the simpler ones. The training eventually requires correct pronunciation, correct grammar, appropriate tone of voice, and so on, with the goal that the child’s language should ultimately be like that of typically developing peers (Sundberg& Michael, 2001).