The Role OF THIS Listener In Skinners Verbal Behavior Psychology Essay


This newspaper examines Skinner's analysis of the role of a listener in a speaker-listener verbal show as a mediation of reinforcement for the speaker's tendencies. Reinforcement as a mediation is an important component yet at the same time it is insufficient definitional aspect concerning the role of the listener. As the patterns of the listener is more technical and must be considered more fully. In addition, the idea of 'understanding' and hearing are analyzed. As Skinner assumes someone who listens and will not respond effectively which means he will not understand and for that reason he will not consequate the verbal action of the loudspeaker. Nevertheless, a person might listen and understand but he intentionally doesn't want to comply to the speaker's verbal action.


Skinner's (1957) reserve, Verbal Behavior, key targets the action of the loudspeaker; nevertheless he doesn't overlook the tendencies of the listener. As skinner clarifies that, "an enough profile of verbal patterns need cover only as much of the tendencies of the listener as is needed to explain the tendencies of the speaker" (Skinner, 1957, p. 2). Terms, for Skinner is a discovered patterns under the practical control of environmental contingencies. This may be evident whenever a man talks or responds that becomes a question about human being action and in its flip a question to be clarified with adequate principles and techniques of psychology as an experimental research of patterns (Skinner, 1957, p. 5).

Verbal operant products, on the other hands, are determined by identifying functional relationships between verbal tendencies and the environment. For example, mand is handled by motivational procedures (MOs), the tact is managed by discriminative stimuli (SD) by means of objects or occasions, other types of verbal operants are echoic, intraverbal, textual, and autoclitic patterns are managed by (SD ) by means of preceding verbal stimuli and all verbal habit comes under the discriminative control of an audience composed of a listener or audience, like the presenter himself.

Skinner's Account of the Role of the Listener

Skinner defines verbal tendencies as a ''behavior strengthened through the mediation of other folks'' (Skinner, 1957, p. 2). We observe that at this preliminary explanation of verbal behavior Skinner will not give much attention to the role of the listener, despite the fact that there would be little verbal habit to consider if someone hadn't already acquired special responses to the habits of energy generated by the loudspeaker. Because of this, this omission can be justified, for the behavior of the listener in mediating the consequences of the tendencies of the speaker is definitely not verbal in any special sense (Skinner, 1957, p. 2). Skinner considers the listener's essential role to be the development and mediation of reinforcement for the speaker's habit. Quite simply, the listener's role is to bodily act upon the earth and to reinforce the verbal patterns of the presenter.

Skinner, however, expresses that the presence of the listener is necessary for a verbal instance. Hence, the manners of a presenter and a listener considered along constitute a verbal instance, after which Skinner stresses that together they compose what may be called a complete speech tv show. Since there may be nothing in this instance which is more than the mixed behavior of several individuals and consequently little or nothing "emerges" in the communal unit. The presenter can be analyzed while supposing a listener and the listener while assuming a loudspeaker (Skinner, 1957, p. 2).

Skinner in addition considers the speaker to be his own listener, such as many significant occasions the listener is behaving at the same time as a presenter. Since the loudspeaker and the listener 'may reside within the same skin'. Thus, a few of the tendencies of being attentive resembles the patterns of speaking, mainly when the presenter 'recognizes' what's said, this may be covertly observed in verbal operants as echoics, mands, tacts, intraverbals and autoclitics. At this point the loudspeaker may serve as his own audience. As Skinner feels that an research of the speaker's verbal habit depends upon the establishment of an verbal repertoire of the listener without which you will see no verbal action.

The listener takes on a significant role relating to Skinner in consequating the speaker's tendencies this may be seen when the listener provides a suitable level of attention as an eyesight contact, head nods, compliment or even in the way he is standing face forward. This would surrender its turn interpersonal reinforcement the presenter is longing for. Also, giving an answer to the speaker's mands. This can be by means of getting things, starting entry doors, and other nonverbal tendencies. Another form of verbal habit that is most likely important in tuning in is echoic. Once we covertly echo that which we hear. Echoics are vocal replies which have point-to-point correspondence with the vocal emissions of other audio system and that come to provide verbal functions (Skinner, 1957). A kid may point to a toy and try to access it. If the parent supports the toy while declaring "toy" and the kid then says "toy" in order to gain the toy, this is an example of an echoic response, for the reason that the copying moves to a mand function. Tuning in, therefore is conceptualized as an operant action maintained by the consequence of 'what is heard'.

A presenter and a listener may turn responses 'turn-taking' this is covertly observable. It really is a particular type of interlocking verbal habit products. As when both a listener and loudspeaker responses are reinforced for a person in a dyad involving turn-taking, it is an observable incidence of your episode where both the speaker and the listener reactions for each of the folks are reinforced. Furthermore, there is another type of rotation as Skinner illustrates, "the verbal fantasy, whether overt or covert, is automatically reinforcing to the presenter as listener. As the musician performs or composes what he's reinforced by reading, or as the artist paints what reinforces him aesthetically, so the speaker engaged in verbal illusion says what he is reinforced by reading or creates what he's reinforced by reading" (Skinner, 1957, p. 439). Therefore, this type of rotations between speaker and listener that occurs within the individual's own skin area, which in some instances is covertly observable, is also reinforcing.

The listener performs another important role; as he can fortify the speaker's verbal action, he is able to also extinguish it. This may be visible in the social punishment delivered by the verbal community in the form of an audience. There control over the speaker's verbal patterns may be emitted by means of frowns, mind nods or disregarding the speaker and not responding verbally or non-verbally to his verbal patterns. Therefore, in the existence of certain audiences whom the speaker has a previous history of being positively reinforced with a loudspeaker may emit a certain response covertly within the presence of a negative audience another form of response may be emitted that might be overtly or with low power or a speaker might just stop talking. In other words, different audiences will reinforce an individual response differently, and for completely different reasons (Skinner, 1957, pp. 230-232). Nonetheless, Skinner sums the ability of your listener to bolster or punish a speaker's verbal habit that a listener must understand what the speaker is saying, to know what this is of his verbal behavior is and to take action properly and effectively upon hearing the speaker's verbal patterns.

A Critique of Skinner's Bill of the Role of the Listener

It seems as Skinner was progressively moving further in Verbal Habit, he began to recognize some gaps in his conversations or in other circumstances some contradictions. But most of all he started to focus on that the listener does hold an important role in a speaker's verbal behavior, he admits that "[i]t would be foolish to underestimate the issue of this subject matter" (Skinner, 1957, p. 3). Skinner in the beginning started with the idea that "[i]t will be beneficial to restrict our classification by excluding cases of 'speaking' that are strengthened by certain kinds of effects on the listener. The exclusion is arbitrary but it helps to specify a field of inquiry having certain unitary properties" (Skinner, 1957, p. 224). Therefore, Skinner sophisticated this further to say that the first restriction would be to limit the term verbal to occasions in which the reactions of the 'listener' have been conditioned. Then elaborates that if we make the further provision that the 'listener' must be responding in ways which were conditioned specifically in order to reinforce the tendencies of the presenter, then we slim our subject to be traditionally regarded as the verbal field (Skinner, 1957, p. 224-225). Therefore, a listener matching to Skinner is the average person who responds in a proper effective way to stimuli produced by way of a speaker's verbal habit. This will take us back to the point a listener must understand first this is the speaker is talking about to become able to answer and to react appropriately. However, a listener may in a few situations understand what the speaker is saying or requesting him to do but he doesn't wish to accomplish it or in other words comply to and follow what he's told to do.

This could be reviewed in the following example when a parent may ask his 'grounded' kid to: "go and take the trash out". As a sign of anger the kid will not comply from what his dad asked him to do but at exactly the same time he does understand what his father asked him to do "take the trash out". This does not match Skinner's earlier assumption; a listener would you not act in response properly to the speaker's verbal tendencies does not know very well what has been said. In another case, a listener may 'echo' a term in another terminology but he will not understand what it means - the presenter may say "heureux" and the listener would say "heureux". At exactly the same time Skinner talks about that understanding something is to know very well what it means. The ability for a listener to engage in this patterns again in future similar circumstances as a reply to the proper stimulus under appropriate circumstances is 'understanding'. Because it does not entail any immediate activity for the listener (although reactions of the other sorts already noted may take place concurrently), we discover the change only in his future action (Skinner, 1957, p. 357).

A listener may say I 'understand' only when he "identified the parameters that have been mainly effective in leading him to help make the same response [in another occasion] "(Skinner, 1957, p. 280). Yet, Skinner's conversation upon this part also lacks an explicit description for what sort of stimulus in the past might bring behavior under the control of a stimulus in today's. This is also evident in the profile of knowing which Skinner talks about to be a hypothetical immediate condition that is found only at a later time (Skinner, 1957, p. 363). In fact, at the previous part of Verbal Behavior he argues that faraway stimuli are poor variables and contingencies that require them usually strengthen 'bridging' patterns (Skinner, 1957, p. 416-417). But, this means that habit is abrupt and ended at that point of time that should be bridged back. Yet, action is a continuous evolving discussion with the environment. Another point, there is absolutely no 'distance' as Skinner assumes; alternatively events are defined in different ways and forms.

Skinner considers 'understanding' to be always a covert tendencies as 'seeing' and 'thinking'. Yet at the end of Verbal Behavior Skinner states that there aren't many distinctions between covert and overt tendencies; as the parameters controlling them will be the same. We can not really identify covert from overt tendencies along practical lines. A person is an expert listener because of their own verbal tendencies. Subtle behavior is easy for the listener to react to when he is also the Presenter. Skinner elaborates further that thinking is most beneficial when verbal action leads to specific consequences and are strengthened just as the example of verbal daydreams. Skinner at the end of Verbal Action comes to the conclusion that thinking is habit, overt or covert, verbal or nonverbal (Skinner, 1957, p. 446-452).

This calls for us back again to the very beginning of Verbal Habit in which Skinner started out by assuming that the patterns of the listener can't be distinguished from behavior generally (Skinner, 1957, p. 2). Yet, this makes us think about why he tackled considering to be a individual entity and the listener was marginalized. May be the listener a topic at the time Skinner wrote Verbal Behavior to be a complicated subject matter to a spot he deliberately prevented discussing. In the event that's the problem why would Skinner take the loudspeaker to be his own listener, and how the listener and the loudspeaker are within one skin? Does this in its convert lead us to believe that the loudspeaker is also a action? Of what we have discussed up to now a remedy might be in separating the listener and the loudspeaker into two founded individual entities and consequently to look at the listener's role in depth. Also, to explain further how 'understanding' a verbal stimulus might be converted to a nonverbal response on part of the listener which Skinner does not give enough attention to in his conversations.


As we've discussed Skinner clarifies that the fundamental role of the listener is in the development and mediation of reinforcement for the speaker's action. But, at the same time communication is regarded to reach your goals only if an expression has the same interpretation for both presenter and the listener. As much theories of interpretation are usually applied to both presenter and listener as though this is process were the same for both. Yet, a lot of the habit of the listener does not have any resemblance to the action of the presenter and it is not verbal according to Skinner's definition (Skinner, 1957, p. 33).

Skinner shows that the action of the listener is more complex and must be considered more totally, as once a repertoire of verbal patterns has been setup, a number of new problems happen from the discussion of its parts. As verbal tendencies is usually the effect of multiple causes in which separate variables combine to extend their functional control, and as a result new types of action emerge from the recombination of old fragments. Therefore, this has appropriate effects upon the listener. His behavior then demands analysis especially in the case that a loudspeaker is normally also a listener. The presenter responds to his own patterns in a number of significant ways. The mere emission of reactions is an imperfect characterization when patterns is composed. As another effect to the fact that the speaker is also a listener, a few of the tendencies of listening resembles the tendencies of speaking, particularly if the listener ''knows'' what is said. (Skinner, 1957, p. 10) However, each person is controlled by the different history of reinforcement and handling contingencies. That leads a speaker to self-edit his verbal action when he confirms that what he said has another meaning for the listener who in his change is controlled by way of a different history of reinforcement and different managing contingencies. Therefore, a presenter to avoid punishment he partcipates in a self-editing habit.

We observe that Skinner's description of verbal behavior still need further refinement to sophisticated further on the nature and function of the role of any listener in a verbal event. I find Skinner's own comments on Verbal Action to be proper finish on the listener's role for the tendencies of the presenter, as he suggests it onward to future critics that the problem of listener needs further examination.

Most of my book Verbal Habit (1957) was about the loudspeaker. It covered a few diagrams exhibiting connections between speakers

and listeners, but little direct discussion of being attentive. I could justify that because, except when the listener was also for some extent

speaking, listening had not been verbal in the sense of being 'effective only through the mediation of other individuals. ' But if listeners are responsible for the action of speakers, we need to look more tightly at what they do. (Skinner, 1989, p. 86)

Skinner has tackled an extremely complicated subject matter, he could not handled all its aspects with the same level of cohesion and steadiness but at exactly the same time he has exposed the door for future thinkers and critics to keep and keep on what he has established.

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