The Behaviorist Approach To Language Development

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The Behaviorist Approach to Language Development Language Development for the Educational Interpreter December 5, 2007 B.F Skinner, a behavior psychologist, was an individual who proposed that language is learned through behavior and reinforcement. Through Verbal Operant Conditioning, Skinner strived to prove that positive reinforcements shaped individual behavior. If a child was rewarded for their appropriate use of language and grammar, the end result would be the acquisition of language. Skinner’s research focused on the observable behavior of an individual. He felt that there was no underlying meaning to words and that verbal behavior was due to the conditioning that occurs between the words and the reinforcement properties of a stimulus. He believed that a sentence is merely part of a “behavior chain, each element of which provides a conditional stimulus for the production of the succeeding element.” (Fodor, Bever, & Garrett, p.25). Both physical and social reinforcement stimulation played an important part in this concept. Skinner believed that defining verbal behavior as the “behavior that is reinforced through the mediation of another person, we do not, and cannot specify any one form, mode, or medium. Any movement capable of affecting another organism may be verbal.”(Skinner Pg.14). The outcome of a verbal response depended on the four-term contingency model which consists of: motivating operation (MO), discriminative stimulus, response, and reinforcement. (Skinner Pg.15) These interactions of the above in a child’s environment would develop into associations which are the basis of all language. Let’s first try and understand the concept of Verbal Operant Conditioning. It is the idea that when a verbal response in a certain situation is followed by a positive reinforcer it becomes more likely that the behavior
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