What is Verbal Behavior?

Verbal behavior is a term used in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to describe the use of language and communication to interact with others and express one’s needs and desires. It is a subset of behavior analysis that focuses specifically on language development and communication skills.

Verbal behavior includes any communicative behavior that is reinforced by the listener’s response. This can include spoken language, sign language, written language, and even nonverbal communication such as gestures and facial expressions. In ABA, verbal behavior is analyzed in terms of the function it serves, rather than the form it takes. This means that the focus is on what the communication is intended to accomplish, rather than the specific words or phrases that are used.

Verbal behavior can be broken down into several different categories, including:

  1. Manding: This refers to making requests or asking for something. For example, a child saying “I want juice” is engaging in manding.
  2. Tacting: This refers to labeling or describing something in the environment. For example, a child saying “tree” when looking at a tree is engaging in tacting.
  3. Intraverbal: This refers to responding to questions or comments from others. For example, a child answering the question “What’s your name?” is engaging in intraverbal behavior.
  4. Echoic: This refers to repeating what someone else has said. For example, a child saying “juice” after an adult says “juice” is engaging in echoic behavior.
  5. Textual: This refers to reading or writing words or symbols. For example, a child reading a book or writing a sentence is engaging in textual behavior.

Overall, verbal behavior is an important component of communication and social interaction, and is a critical skill for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities to learn and develop.

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