Sunday, January 6, 2019

SD is the Sound of the Speaker's Voice

Dear Reader,
In “Operants, Issue III, 2018”, there is an article “How Should We Determine Appropriate Units of Analysis in a Science of Behavior?” in which David C. Palmer is interviewed by David Roth. It is stated that “The purpose of this interview is to discuss the main points in a fundamental paper Skinner wrote in 1935, titled The Generic Nature of the Concepts of Stimulus and Response.” I will comment on his interview, as some of the things that Palmer speaks about help me to make clear the distinction between Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB) and Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB).
The reader needs to know these two universal patterns of speech are easily observable if the observer listens to how speakers sound while they speak. Surely, everyone is able to hear and acknowledge that SVB speakers sound different than NVB speakers, but as behaviorists haven’t analyzed patterns of speech based on how the speaker sounds, they have over-looked or, it is more precise to write or say, over-listened, these two mutually exclusive ways of talking.
It is important to recognize that the SVB/NVB distinction is a listener’s perspective of the speaker’s speech, while Skinner takes a speaker’s perspective of Verbal Behavior (1957). While Skinner mentions the speaker-as-own-listener, his view obfuscates the listener-as-own-speaker. This is NOT a game of words I am playing, as the listener who hears the speaker’s sound is, as a speaker, affected by that speaker’s tone of voice. Stated differently, the speaker either invites the listener into SVB or forces the listener into NVB.
Palmer laments the fact that the (1935) paper “The Generic Nature of the Concepts of Stimulus and Response” (1935) is hardly ever read by any students today. According to Palmer, the paper is important as it “sets out a procedure by which appropriate units of stimulus and response in behavior analysis can be identified.” However, he doesn’t recognize that this essential procedure, which pertains to inductive reasoning, isn’t used due to our involvement in NVB. When Palmer writes “Most people are unaware that there even is a problem, because they use dependent and independent variables that have already been “validated” by others before them”, he doesn’t realize he is referring to bias that is maintained by our common way of talking. The NVB speaker doesn’t listen to him or herself while he or she speaks as he or she only cares about whether the others are listening to him or her. NVB speakers dominate listeners with a negative contingency.
Forceful, insensitive, superior and powerful NVB speakers always determine, during any given conversation, who may speak (and for how long and about what) and who MUST remain silent and listen (and be inferior, respectful, polite, obedient and follow orders). Skinner, who, in my opinion, unknowingly, is trying to address the necessity of SVB, argues that “units of analysis should not be defined in advance. Rather, they should be determined by looking for orderly relations between behavior and its independent variables. We should adopt those definitions that yield maximal orderliness in our data.” Once we learn about the SVB/NVB distinction, we are amazed by the “orderliness in our data.”
Once we acknowledge the sound of the speaker’s voice as an independent variable, we become aware what determines our speaking behavior, the dependent variable. The French have a famous saying: C'est le ton qui fait la musique, which means: it’s the tone that makes the music or it’s not what you say but how you say it. This saying describes the “orderly relations between behavior and its independent variables”, but it must be stated very EMPHATICALLY, it is a total waste of time to keep “LOOKING” instead of LISTENING for “orderly relations between behavior and its independent variables.”
It should be noted that Skinner came to define the “unit of behavior” for a rat as “any behavior that pressed the lever with sufficient force to operate the switch.” Anyone who can read this, can understand that Skinner OBSERVED and counted the rat’s lever presses. We humans also OBSERVE by LISTENING, that is, LISTENING is the quintessential way to OBSERVE, especially during our spoken communication. In other words, in the process of defining his “unit of behavior”, Skinner appears to be biased toward VISUAL stimuli. I suggest that the “unit of behavior” to be counted is whether any given speaker produces an instance of SVB or NVB.

My First Response to Fraley

Dear Reader,
By informing you about the great difference between Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB) and Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB), I am bringing you a good tiding. This is my Christmas message to you. As a self-taught behaviorist, I am not so much bothered by jargon and, therefore, I can flexibly converse with anyone who doesn’t know anything about behaviorism. I am now going to give some comments on the paper “On Verbal Behavior: The First of Four Parts” (2004) by the behaviorologist Lawrence E. Fraley. I write these comments to illustrate to you that what I convey about SVB is totally in line with behaviorology.
Fraley writes (this is a very long quote!) “While verbal behavior is reinforced only through the mediation of another person, its mere exhibition does not require the participation of such a person. Verbal behavior is commonly evoked in the absence of another listener, but such instances go unreinforced socially. The person who contacts a hat may say, audibly, That is a stylish hat, but in the absence of a listener who can provide reinforcers, that statement goes without extrinsic social consequation. However, because a verbal response is heard by its speaker, it may in a sense reinforce itself (a type of automatic reinforcement). The evidence is the repetition, on similar occasions, of that behavior by lone speakers, who, in common parlance cast in agential terms, may be described as persons who like to listen to themselves talk. After all, an intrinsically reinforcing aural stimulus impinging in the form of sound waves is not stripped of its intrinsic reinforcing qualities when it impinges on the ear of the speaker from whom it originated. Speech that fails to reinforce its own production behavior is subject to a kind of intrinsic extinction. It can be sustained only on the basis of reinforcers that are supplied from extrinsic sources, which requires one or more other listeners.” Although you may have had some accidental moments of SVB in your life, you have NOT been reinforced EVER for your SVB and that is why you have so very little of it.
Unless your SVB is met by a listener, who can provide reinforcers, that is, by a listener, who becomes a speaker, and who knows about SVB already (!), your naturally occurring SVB will go “without extrinsic social consequation.” After reading my writing, you may feel inspired and you may actually want to try to start talking out loud with yourself, as you would like to know and experience what SVB is about, but chances are that your overt self-talk will NOT reinforce itself, that is, most likely, you will NOT feel automatically reinforced, even if you would be listening to the sound of your own wellbeing!!!
Your calm, effortless, pleasant-sounding voice, will NOT be “an intrinsically reinforcing aural stimulus impinging in the form of sound waves”, as “without extrinsic social consequation”, it can NOT yet have acquired “intrinsic reinforcing qualities when it impinges on the ear of the speaker from whom it originated.” This is one of the most astounding aspects of SVB! When your SVB is for the first time socially reinforced, you will discover you have been ‘deaf’ to the sound of your own wellbeing. As you were only reinforced for your NVB, you were conditioned NOT to listen to the sound which makes you feel good. Your ‘psychological deafness’, which pertains to this missing frequency of listening, causes you NOT to be able to produce that sound while you speak. In effect, you hardly EVER speak with a voice that makes you feel completely at ease.
Many unhappy people would like to feel happy, but they have no idea, that, day in day out, they speak with a tone of voice, which makes them and keeps them unhappy. As long as you are ‘trying’ to speak with a happy sound, you will NOT be able to speak with a happy sound. Fraley writes that “Speech that fails to reinforce its own production behavior is subject to a kind of intrinsic extinction. It can be sustained only on the basis of reinforcers that are supplied from extrinsic sources, which requires one or more other listeners.” You will only be able to speak with a happy tone of voice with others as well as alone by yourself after your SVB was extensively, extrinsically, socially and positively reinforced.
You may NOT want to believe me, but, since we didn’t until recently know about the SVB/NVB distinction, there has NEVER been a listener who was able to repeatedly reinforce your SVB!!! In other words, the speech which would make you happy is on extinction in the absence of a listener who can reinforce it. Although Fraley writes about verbal behavior in a more general sense, what he writes about the listener explains exactly why we have so very little SVB. “Such a listener must share salient characteristics with the listeners who have played a role in the conditioning history of that behavior.” In other words, such a listener MUST know what SVB is otherwise he or she could NOT reinforce it.
Then, Fraley provides an example, which is very useful for understanding why, in the absence of a listener, who, as a speaker, can reinforce your SVB, you keep going all over the place trying and desperately hoping to find someone who will be able to reinforce your SVB. (Again, this is a long quote). “That is why, if previously on city streets one has been successful in asking for directions only from the uniformed police officers among all types who have been asked, one eventually tends not to ask directions of other kinds of people on city streets. However, as the aversiveness called desperation intensifies, the asking behavior may come increasingly under stimulus control of the more common features of passersby, and the range of persons to whom inquiries are directed expands accordingly.” It should be stated here that “the aversiveness called desperation intensifies” especially because we are, when it comes to how we talk with each other, totally lost. No matter how frantically we search, we do NOT find the knowledgeable SVB agent, who can tell us the way. Inadvertently, we end up asking anyone, passersby, who claim to know SVB, but who can only reinforce our NVB.
Fraley then writes “Being operant in nature, verbal behavior is evoked by events in the environment. Its rate or its relative frequency is subject to change as a result of its consequating stimuli, which audience members must mediate. That is, verbal behavior, however evoked, may then be reinforced, punished, or extinguished—a characteristic that identifies verbal behavior as operant behavior. Thus, to survive in a person’s verbal repertoire, a specific verbal behavior must be selected for that survival by its consequences—meaning, of course, that, if it is to continue reliably to occur on such occasions, it must be reinforced. During the conditioning of a verbal behavior, the consequences are mediated by other members of the individual’s verbal community.” The reality is: there are only very few members of the SVB verbal community. This writing is to let you know I am creating a SVB community, which is steadily getting bigger.

Stimulus, Response & Consequence

Dear Reader,
The reason that you are, like everyone else, in spite of what you ‘think’ you know, mostly engaging in Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB) and NOT in Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB), is because you are mainly reinforced for the former, but seldom if ever for the latter. It is very important to fully understand and acknowledge that your verbal behavior, which is speaking, listening, but also writing and reading, is operant behavior, it is evoked by stimuli in your environment. The following comments will be accompanied by the (sometimes lengthy) quotes from the exquisite writing of Lawrence E. Fraley “On Verbal Behavior: The First of Four Parts” (2004).
To understand operant conditioning, you first need to know about the three-term contingency, which consists of 1) a discriminative stimulus (Sd), 2) a response (R), and 3) a consequence (C). When R is positively reinforcement and C follows R (which happened in response to Sd), then R is more likely to happen in the future if Sd is contacted again. Behaviorist don’t say R is caused by Sd, but R is a function of Sd. They address the likelihood that R will happen in the future; the probability of R increases depending on C (reinforcement) received for R in the past. I happen to know that there is what they call the Matching Law, which basically states that as the reinforcement increases the response increases.
SVB and NVB are categories which depend on the sound of the speaker’s voice. In other words, the SVB speaker sounds totally different than the NVB speaker. The SVB speaker’s voice is said to be a discriminative stimulus (Sd), which sets the stage for an different kind of conversation than the NVB speaker’s voice. Once we know about the great difference between SVB and NVB, we are wondering, why we should still call NVB a conversation, which it is NOT, since the NVB speaker ALWAYS negatively affects his or her audience. The sound of the speaker’s voice sets the stage, sets to tone for how we interact with each other. Depending on the outcome of our conversation (the reinforcing consequence), we will be talking that way in the future more often.

Sd --------------> Response---------> Consequence
Speaker’s voice-> SVB-> Reinforcement/Equality
Appetitive stimulus----> SVB-----> Collaboration
Sounds Good------> SVB-----------> Togetherness
Sd --------------> Response---------> Consequence
Speaker’s voice---> NVB--> Hierarchy/Inequality
Aversive stimulus--> NVB----> Superior/Inferior
Sounds Bad-----> NVB-------> Struggle/Isolation
Fraley wants his readers to “consider two aspects of an instance of operant conditioning: (a) the momentary structure of the body that is being conditioned—a structure that, at any given moment, is determined by the prior operant conditioning of that body along with a variety of other physiological factors, and (b) the structure of the environment of that body, structured as it is at that same moment. Whatever verbal behavior then occurs to that body is simply the natural and inevitable reaction of that bodily structure to that environmental structure as energy from the latter impinges on the former.” I want my reader to carefully reread especially this last sentence, as it so poignantly describes the unequivocal fact that we are ALWAYS only able to react in the way that our body allows us to. In other words, our individual conditioning history determines how we behave and NOT some inner, willful, autonomous, behavior-causing ‘self’. As nobody knew about the SVB/NVB distinction as accurately and scientifically as we know now, SVB was NEVER deliberately, skillfully and continuously reinforced and, thus, we have been bound by consequences of NVB!
The aforementioned should also be described as our failure at predicting behavior. “Failure to predict accurately an impending behavior is not evidence that nature is capricious, but rather that the sets of variables that respectively define the body and its environment at that moment have not been subject to a full accounting.” Our NVB would NEVER fully account for the “sets of variables that respectively define the body and its environment” as it didn’t allow us to express and explore in conversation the tremendously important fact that we are indeed each other’s environment and we are affected by each other. Due to our NVB, we have remained oblivious about many scientific facts of human behavior.
Here follows a well-worded description of our urgent need to prevent our biases, which are all maintained by NVB. “Failure to render accurate predictions measures the ineffectiveness of the behavior of the person who predicts, not lapses in the functional aspect of nature. Given an instance of verbal behavior, we can always ask meaningfully what controlled it. The question pertains to its antecedent (i.e., evocative) environmental stimuli.” Addressing the negative effects of the sound of the (NVB) speaker’s voice has ALWAYS been a taboo, as by doing so we are questioning authority. “If our inquiry is informed by a philosophy of naturalism, we anticipate that a valid and reliable answer is possible in terms of measurable variables, and we tend to look for those behavior–controlling antecedent stimuli.” Although behaviorists are better at predicting behavior than anyone else – as they acknowledge the lawfulness of behavior – they have NEVER applied their knowledge to the destructive way of talking (NVB) that is common in every part of our world and may very well bring life on earth to an end. While behavior analysts are capable of teaching autistic children how to become verbal, they have NOT been able to accurately address the reason why we keep being engaged in NVB.
Please calmly read this long quote, which depicts the ‘confidence’ of a knowledgeable behaviorist. “In the past, under similar search conditions, we have so often discovered functional antecedent controls in proportion to the effort expended to discover them that our behavior to reveal such environmental evocatives for a specified behavior now tends to continue unabated (or, as it may be stated in terms of popular fictional constructs, our current expectation that precise controls exist to be discovered is much strengthened). Here we describe a philosophical contribution to scientific activity (i.e., the proposition that measurable functional antecedents of a detectable event always exist to be identified). In this case the relevant philosophy informs a typical kind of analytical activity in the field of verbal behavior—namely, the search for functional antecedent variables.” The sounds of the voices of the speakers are the discriminative stimuli, which precede our verbal responses and are called “antecedent variables.” As stated, it is the sound of the speaker’s voice which sets the stage for how we talk together: in NVB speakers speak AT each other, but in SVB they speak WITH each other; NVB speakers set themselves apart from their listeners, while SVB speakers connect and unite with their listeners.
With the correct knowledge, we can decrease our NVB and we can happily engage in SVB: “That scientific activity has potentially important technological implications pertinent to verbal behavior: Once those antecedent controls on some verbal behavior are identified and their functions have been delineated precisely, we can then manipulate those antecedent variables to gain control of the kind of verbal behavior that is dependent upon them.” Regardless of whether that NVB speaker is someone else or that we ourselves are that speaker, we just don’t like to listen to him or her. Only if we realize this, will we be able to stop our NVB and engage in SVB.

“In the context of this discussion, the important relation is between (a) the nature of the prevailing philosophy and (b) the ultimate realization of the useful technological capacities (i.e., the capacity to control the kind of verbal behavior in question). In general, the basic assumptions with which one begins one’s efforts to cope will indirectly determine the ultimate quality of life that is realized as a benefit of the scientific activity that those assumptions have informed. Better philosophy informs more effective science, which, in turn, yields more effective technology (i.e., environment–controlling arrangements). Those qualitative implications that inhere in these general relations remain valid when verbal behavior happens to be the kind of environmental event upon which the science is focused.” I love the way in which Fraley describes those “qualitative implications” of “effective technology (i.e. environment-controlling arrangements).” In that sense, it needs to be stated squarely that SVB is, of course, the ONLY way in which there can EVER be such a thing as scientific interaction. I believe that the “quality of life” depends on SVB.
It is precisely because they account for every aspect of verbal behavior, that behavior analysts are able to teach nonverbal children, from the bottom up, to become verbal. They can, and, in my opinion, should, also teach people to engage in SVB instead of in NVB. “When we are under general contingencies to account for a statement in its totality, we may inquire about the nature of the controls on that particular sample of verbal behavior, as when we ask why a given person would have just said that “a car will soon arrive at that intersection.” Was that statement controlled by a visual contact with an approaching car? Has the person perhaps only heard the sound of a distant car? Was it merely a probability statement based on the distribution pattern of passing cars during a preceding interval? We may also ask such questions about the elements of the statement: Why did the person say “a car,” and why a car instead of another kind of vehicle? Why was the word soon included? Why say that intersection instead of this intersection, or the intersection? Not only does the statement in general have its environmental controls, each formal linguistic nuance of its structure also results from controlling factors that can be identified. An old piece of wisdom asserts that there is a reason for everything, and that is certainly true when applied to verbal behavior and its elements. An important implication is that grammar or syntax should be taught in terms of the functional controls on linguistic forms rather than in terms of rules that prescriptively describe but cannot account for acceptable forms.” The difference between SVB and NVB only becomes apparent if we begin to pay attention to functional control. By asking the simple question: of what sound is our way of talking a function?, we will finally be able to actually hear that NVB is ALWAYS based on a speaker’s voice, which, if given the choice, we really don’t like to listen to, while SVB is based on a speaker’s sound we like to listen to. In effect, we are going to have more SVB as the consequences of SVB are incredibly reinforcing.

Human Behavior as Language

Dear Reader,
In “Human Behavior as Language: Some Thoughts on Wittgenstein” (2006) Ribes-Iñesta explains “language as a form of life.” He writes that “Language as a medium is the totality of functions that objects and actions acquire as conventional signals. It involves the reactions induced by stimuli, the differential reactions to or recognitions of stimuli, and the reproduction of stimuli.” This is as close he gets to addressing the listener who mediates the speaker’s speaking behavior. Both Ribes-Iñesta as well as Wittgenstein intellectualize about language. Unlike B.F. Skinner, they don’t strike me as particularly emotionally involved in their analysis of language. Positive or negative emotions could be involved in “reactions to induced stimuli.” The “language games” involved in prolonging our positive or negative emotions require a separate analysis. The Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB)/ Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB) distinction can accomplish such an analysis as these two universal categories are grounded in the everyday experience of ordinary people and has more appeal than any intellectual analysis.

Understanding about “the nature of human behavior and its relation to language” has been hindered by our involvement in NVB. NVB is the reason why “language is like a second nature for us, even though we may not be aware of this.” In NVB we are oblivious of our use of language. We are only aware of our use of language to the extent that we are in the here and now while we use it. In SVB, as the speaker listens to him or herself, while he or she speaks, he or she is a conscious speaker, as his or her attention for his or her sound, which is produced in the here and now, makes him or her aware of the here and now. Also, listening brings our attention to the here and now. Thus, production and reception of sound emphasize the here and now.

In SVB, our joined speaking and listening behaviors are conscious acts. Also, we are more careful and understanding about our language during SVB. The causation of behavior attributed to an inner self is a myth perpetuated by how we talk, by NVB. “Wittgenstein’s remarks and observations point to the mistake in assuming that speaking about our experiences and feelings entails speaking about the mind.” However, as long as we don’t know about the SVB/NVB distinction, we cannot really become scientific about our language. Behaviorism, in spite of all of its empirical evidence, continues to be given short shrift as it hasn’t been taught with SVB. It should be taught with SVB.
The “much-needed conceptual shift” hasn’t and couldn’t have been produced by the “theoretical efforts in the analysis of language and human behavior.” To create such a shift, we must engage in a different kind of conversation. Only in SVB can we talk about the “possibility of producing and creating new circumstances resulting from special classes of individual practice.” In SVB we can talk about and dissolve the “conceptual confusion in assuming the “existence” of private events corresponding to “inner” experience.” Moreover, we will find out that NVB has kept us ignorant about ourselves and each other. Rather than, as we have been used to, due to NVB, excluding human psychological phenomena from language, in SVB we will impregnate “human psychological phenomena by language”. And, as we become capable of expressing our emotions more accurately, due to our SVB we will become more rational. “The linguistic nature of human environment” will only be observed if we listen to ourselves while we speak. Ribes-Iñesta writes about “The foundation of language in action and the acquisition of its basic elements through observation and listening”, but he doesn’t mention that to accomplish this conceptual shift we have to speak and listen, instead of read. Reading can’t change how we talk and listen, only talking can do that.
Ribes-Iñesta ends with “Contrary to our pragmatic culture, advances in psychology do not necessarily depend on empirical accumulation of evidence, especially when it is based upon conceptual misunderstandings. The critical revision of prevailing assumptions about human behavior may be a more adequate strategy to formulate meaningful questions.” Although he is correct and meaningful questions must, of course, be asked and answered, I still believe that advances in psychology are going to depend on whether we will talk with each other and how we will talk with each other. It never stops to amaze me, however, how little motivation there is among behaviorists, therapists or psychologists to actually talk with each other.
In concluding my response to Ribes-Iñesta’s paper, I want to emphasize once more that conceptual misunderstandings can and will only properly be dealt with if we learn about another way of talking. The fact that mental health professionals continue to have so many misunderstandings and unanswered questions, even if they are finally having some conversation, is the elephant in the room of human psychology. We cannot possibly write or read our way out of this mess! When we explore the SVB/NVB distinction, we will find to our big surprise that understanding each other was never really the problem! In SVB we understand ourselves and each other because we experience ourselves, that is, we are conscious, while we speak. However, in NVB we are neither in touch with ourselves nor with each other. NVB creates and maintains our misunderstandings, while SVB is the solution to our problems!

My Second Response to Fraley

Dear Reader,
This is my second response to the paper “On Verbal Behavior: The First of Four Parts” (2004) by Lawrence E. Fraley. I highly recommend that you read that paper, which I have posted with my previous writing. I am interested in the issue of “Verbal Communities” as I am in the process of creating a verbal community for Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB). Never before has such a verbal community existed. “A verbal community is a set of people who “talk” to each other—that is, who communicate among themselves through language, or more technically, whose linguistic behaviors are maintained by mutual reinforcement.” Fraley mentions the existence of subcommunities within each verbal community. Although this was never properly addressed, the SVB community has always existed within the Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB) community of every culture. Within “the English–speaking verbal community” we find mostly NVB speakers and only a few SVB speakers. The same is true for the French, the Chinese, etc. In pockets of each society SVB has always existed, but it was never clearly articulated that the SVB speaker attends to his or her own speech, that is, listens to his or her own sound, while he or she speaks.
Although SVB has been with us every-since we humans became verbal, we have not consciously, knowingly engaged in it. This unique possibility is only going to be achieved if we all knowingly participate in the creation and maintenance of the environment in which SVB reliably happens. Thus, just like any other ‘established language’, SVB “represents a relatively stable pattern of verbal behavior that is maintained by the special sets of contingencies that are in place within that given verbal community.” As our SVB is only reinforced by our SVB verbal community, we will no longer expect reinforcement from the NVB community. Those who want to have and are capable of having SVB, withdraw from the common NVB verbal community and in this way no longer participate in reinforcement of NVB.
To those who know SVB, people who engage in NVB are merely producing “vocal noises”, failed attempts at being verbal. Only if they listen to themselves while they speak, will they be able to shift from NVB to SVB and become verbal. This process is identical to a nonverbal child, who produces sounds, which are shaped by its verbal community to become language. “Through that process, the production of those noises becomes verbal behavior, and those sounds become words in their respective languages.” However, it is very important to recognize that by shifting from NVB to SVB, we are NOT learning different words in a different language, but, instead, we are learning to speak with a different sound in the language which we are already familiar with. By switching from NVB to SVB, we learn to talk, but we also learn to learn in an entirely new way.
NVB is the reason why even behaviorists like Fraley consider “private verbal behavior” to be “the most challenging aspect of verbal behavior.” In NVB you cannot say what you want to say as you, correctly or incorrectly, perceive yourself to be in a threatening environment. Involvement in NVB, of course, conditions very different neural behavior than involvement in SVB. Due to your involvement in NVB, you experience aversive stimuli inside your body. In NVB you cannot talk about these stimuli. Consequently, they seem to have a life of their own. All of this, however, is the result of the fact that you are NOT saying what you are perfectly capable of saying, but you are not allowed to say and which you don’t want to say, to prevent punitive consequences. Only in SVB can you feel and talk about the stimuli within your own skin and realize that what you considered to be your private speech is in fact the negative effect of your repeated involvement in NVB. Once you engage in ongoing SVB, you say what you want to say and then you find that there is no private speech. Only you have access to that part of the environment that is within your own skin and only you can talk about it.
Unfortunately, most of us are basically stuck with the stimuli which were conditioned due to our involvement in and exposure to NVB as we are the “only person in whom it occurs” and who “is privy to it”. You are so used to NVB that you have come to believe in the auditory illusion that is called private speech. Together with everyone else who engages in NVB, you imagine private verbal behavior occurring “in the form of private thoughts and visions, including those that we denote as comprehending, problem solving, and daydreaming.” Like Fraley, you believe that “for such privately occurring verbal behavior, the “speakers” serve as their own listeners.” The fact is, however, that privately, there IS no speaker, who produces a sound and there IS no listener, who hears a sound. Only when you talk do you produce a sound and is there something to listen to for a listener, but as I have earlier stated, NVB prevents you from talking and from listening. Actually, in NVB we are all only imagining, and, yes, we are all pretending that we are talking and pretending to be listening. Unless we engage in ongoing SVB, we are unable to recognize this.
When we engage in ongoing SVB, we realize that overt speech does NOT recede to a covert level, as is so often purported. Even Fraley writes that “Verbal behavior in the form of audible speaking involves a coordinated set of muscle–driven motor behaviors. Those vocalizations may be exhibited with decreasing intensity until so little sound is being produced that it cannot be heard.” Of course, our bodies are conditioned by overt speech, but to consider these effects as “private forms of verbal behavior” is nonsense.
It is astounding to me that even someone as informed as Fraley, apparently can’t resist the temptation to write metaphorically about the “more private forms of verbal behavior” which “are executed entirely by specialized parts of the nervous system—forms of verbal behavior that may involve only molecular scale movements of neural body parts. This class of neural activity occurs among nerve cells.” Fraley, in my opinion, really wants to talk about these private stimuli, that is, he, unknowingly, wants to engage in SVB, but, like everyone else, he is bound by the conditioning effects of NVB. He doesn’t know about SVB in which we can actually talk about these private stimuli. Naturally, we are NOT able to talk about our private stimuli as physiologists would, but we can talk about them as ONLY we could!!! Fraley, due to his NVB conditioning, puts a limit on himself and doesn’t allow himself or others to talk about these private stimuli in a more elaborate way, as would become possible with SVB. He concedes “Such events involve the release or transformation of so little energy that they remain undetectable by outside observers unless those observers are specially equipped to conduct sensitive probing for such slight and often well insulated physiological activity. Thus, a person’s subvocal statement, “It is going to rain soon,” manifesting as a private thought, goes generally undetected in any direct way by other people (although neural physiologists, using special instrumentation, may be able to detect and measure some properties of the involved neural activity). To the extent that it remains private, no opportunity is created for other members of the verbal community to supply consequences directly to that mini–scaled behavioral manifestation.” I have contacted Fraley, but he doesn’t want to talk with me about SVB and about these private stimuli.

My Third Response to Fraley

Dear Reader,
This is my third response to the paper “On Verbal Behavior: The First of Four Parts” (2004) by Lawrence E. Fraley. Almost everyone believes that they have thoughts, that they, as people say, talk privately inside their heads with themselves. This pervasive false belief, which always goes hand in hand with the unscientific, profoundly problematic, but, also utterly immature notion that we, as individuals, cause our own behavior, is maintained by our usual nasty way of talking which I call Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB). It goes without saying (pun intended) that we are affected by our involvement in NVB. Whether we acknowledge it or not, it is our common way of talking which makes us unhappy. This doesn’t mean, however, that we have negative thoughts and feelings, as we and our so-called mental health professionals believe, but it means that we experience negative stimuli inside our body about which we seldom if ever talk directly. Only during Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB), in which we can fully express ourselves, don’t we mistake these private events any longer as our thoughts or even as our feelings or as our private speech.
Obviously, SVB is a very different way of talking than NVB. As a matter of fact, SVB is so different that while you engage in it, you realize you have always known this was possible, but were never able to get to it. When you, at long last, engage in ongoing SVB, it is clear why your previous way of talking was literally driving you nuts. The only way to have SVB is to stop yourself from having NVB. To have only a moment of SVB is even more troubling than not to have it at all. As long as we can’t continue with SVB, our biggest problem is the very thing which is so incredibly beneficial to all of us: genuine communication.
Although we are, of course, conditioned by our verbal communities and although this certainly means that our bodies and brains have changed and our neural behavior has been and continues to be affected by our verbal environments, there is no such a thing as “private subvocal speech.” To talk about what goes on covertly, inside of our own skin, in the same way as what goes on overtly, is bound to be ineffective as inside of us there is no speaker and no listener. Moreover, our common assumption of this non-existent “private subvocal speech” takes our attention away and endlessly and unnecessarily distracts us from the only real speech, which is overt speech. Only by focusing on overt speech are we able to differentiate between SVB and NVB.
Fraley, who presumably would love the world to know about the science of human behavior, nevertheless still refers to what he describes as “private subvocal speech.” He uses the example (long quote) of someone who is having the (covert) thought “it’s going to rain soon.” “Two points are relevant: First, the elements of that private subvocal speech were originally conditioned under public circumstances. That is, when the thinker was being conditioned originally to respond in that particular linguistic way to stimuli that typically precede rain, the speech was audible to members of the verbal community. They could then consequate it appropriately and with precision thus conditioning the person to exhibit that verbal behavior in a form that is common to that verbal community. When manifestations of that form of speaking recede to the private subvocal level of mere thought, those thoughts, which are manifesting only as neural activity, reflect the common language of the verbal community. As often noted, people think linguistically only in a language that previously they have learned. Second, the current private thought may in turn share in evoking some publicly detectable behavior that can be consequated by the social community, such as reaching for an umbrella to be carried along on an outing. If that public gesture is then punished or reinforced by community members, those consequences affect not only the proximal publicly visible gesture but, to a lesser yet often significant extent, the preceding private verbal behavior that shared in evoking that public response. Much private verbal behavior is consequated indirectly in that way.” What was conditioned under public circumstances was NOT private subvocal speech, but specific physiological responses which, if we cannot talk about them, inevitably result in the illusion that overt speech continues inside of us.
Once the notion of “private verbal behavior” has been accepted, we are getting stuck with a whole bunch of falsehoods. There surely NEVER was a “thinker”, who “was being conditioned originally to respond in that particular linguistic way to stimuli that typically precede rain” when “the speech was audible to members of the verbal community.” It was only an overt speaker, who produces sound that can be heard by a listener, who was conditioned in that particular way. Certain neural behavior was conditioned, but neither was a thinker nor a thought involved in this process, but only overt speech. The overt responses which Fraley describes (taking out the umbrella), are produced without any thinker and without any thought. According to Fraley, public speech recedes to “the private subvocal level of mere thought, those thoughts, which are manifesting only as neural activity, reflect the common language of the verbal community.” If these so-called private subvocal thoughts only manifest as neural activity, what is wrong in just calling them that? Why can’t we talk about the stimuli we experience inside our body? It is only due to our involvement in NVB that we seem to be unable to talk about what goes on within our skin, but in SVB we talk about them beautifully.
Fraley is ABSOLUTELY wrong when he writes “people think linguistically only in a language that previously they have learned”, as people only SPEAK in the language they have learned! This is especially apparent when you work with people who have been diagnosed with so-called mental disorders. The psychotic schizophrenic may engage in what is described as word-salad, but he or she never speaks a word in a language that he or she wasn’t previously conditioned by. When the schizophrenic is said to be internally stimulated, you should listen to what he or she wants to say. Neither do you privately speak with yourself inside your head, nor is a schizophrenic hearing any voices, but both of us are certainly responding to stimuli in our body which are the result of the extent to which we were involved in SVB or NVB. No doubt, NVB, the speech which separates us from our environment and makes it seem as if there are two environments, the environment inside of our skin and outside of our skin, plays a major role psycho-pathology. It is only during SVB that we can talk about what is inside and outside our skin as one environment.

Since You Are Not Contacting Me

Dear Reader,
Since you are not contacting me, I am contacting you. If you had contacted me, there would have been no need for me to contact you. I don’t need to contact you, but I am able to contact you and I know that you are unable to contact me. I also know that I contact you in a different way than many other people do. I don’t contact you to be admired by you, to impress you or to pretend that I have the solution to all your problems.
I contact you to talk with you, as I like to share with you my Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB). If you let me explain to you what SVB is, you will find it is a great treasure. SVB is not what it is because of me, but I happen to be the one who discovered it and who knows quite a lot about it. The importance of SVB also has nothing to do with you. If you want it to be important for you, you will not be able to have it. You are used to a superficial, energy-draining way of talking in which everyone demands and struggles to get the attention. Surely, Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB), your current way of talking, makes you feel better than others, but I am contacting you to have SVB with me. To me, there is no greater pleasure than to enjoy SVB together with others.
Since I am already having SVB on my own and with those who are learning about it from me, I don’t need you to have SVB with me. Many of the topics you keep bringing up are unimportant to me, as they are all related to NVB. If there is no one to have SVB with, I will still continue to have it on my own. You could do the same, but instead you engage in NVB, as you have totally forgotten that you would like to have SVB. Yes, I believe you want to have SVB, even if you never talk with me. Talking with me proves my point.
If you get to talk with me, we will be talking about, we will analyze, how we control each other’s way of talking. We can only develop an effective technology of behavior after we have acknowledged that our common way of talking, NVB, has prevented us from this development. By engaging in SVB, we will learn to talk about control of behavior in a positive manner. Due to our involvement in NVB, we avoid, demonize and forget about that inescapable fact that all human behavior is determined and therefore is controlled. The question is not whether behavior is controlled, but how we will control behavior. Only by engaging in SVB are we able to plan the necessary contingencies that reliably produce effective, healthy, happy and stable behavior.