What Is verbal behavior?
Verbal behavior is the analysis of language and speech through learned behavior. It focuses on teaching words through their function (communicative intent) and not just their sound. This is a major concept utilized in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
The most commonly used classifications of language in verbal behavior are:
- Mands: Mand is a term used in ABA that simply means “request.” This is often the first classification of language that are taught to children who are struggling to vocalize. There is a direct correlation between manding and reinforcement, which can make it a highly motivating activity. Examples of mands include:
- I want a cookie.
- Can I have the ball?
- What are you doing?
- Who’s that?
- Can you open the door?
- Take out the juice, and then pour it.
- Echoic: Vocal imitation. Children learn language through imitation of what they hear from adults and peers. If a child is not naturally echoing/vocally imitating the language around them, it then needs to be specifically taught. Echoic targets are taught to mastery, which includes proper articulation of sounds and words that can be understood across a variety of individuals in a variety of settings.
- Tacts: Labeling objects. Labeling objects is important, and another early step in language building. In order for individuals to have conversations and talk about things in the world, they need to know the names of items. Tacting is often taught after mands/echoics have been established.
- Intraverbal: Conversational or social language. Intraverbals involve much of our day-to-day language, such as emitting words, phrases, and sentences that are in response to the words, phrases, and sentences of others. An intraverbal allows children to answer questions, discuss items that aren’t present and are an essential part of conversations and social interactions. Intraverbals are often taught using fill in the blank phrases and WH-questions. After these skills are explicitly taught, the goal is for the child to be able to answer any novel questions, and be a part of natural conversations/use authentic language. Intraverbals are often considered more complex verbal behavior, as compared to requesting, labeling, and echoics.