Tuesday, May 31, 2016

January 20, 2015

January 20, 2015

Written by Maximus Peperkamp, M.S. Verbal Engineer 

Dear Reader, 

Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB), the way of communicating which causes and maintains all our problems, is negatively reinforced, that is, by acting out and by misbehaving, we presumably get what we want. Since everybody is doing pretty much the same thing, we are almost constantly reinforced for our NVB. The instantly gratifying effects of NVB have kept it going since time memorial and from childhood to adulthood to old age. It is no coincidence that old people are often as demanding as children. As a caregiver, this writer once witnessed the helplessness and frustration of family members at the forceful NVB of a husband/father, who depended on his daughter and his wife. 

This writer was at the bedside of this dying man, whose daughter had let him live his last days at her house. His legs could no longer carry him and the only way to get around was in a wheel chair. He would scream and curse at his wife and his daughter and he would demand their help to get him to stand up, which would make him fall to the ground immediately. His wife, who was also temporarily living with the daughter, told me he had always had his way. Although he had been unable to walk for a couple of years, he didn’t believe he was unable to walk and he blamed everyone for imprisoning him his bed. As it was so hard to go against him, everyone gave in and so he actually believed his legs were still good. He was supposedly demented, but when he was feeling at ease, he was conscious, talkative and quite enjoyable. Even till the very end, his wife and his daughter never told him he couldn’t walk. They tried to placate him and calm him down.

It was astounding to see how these two women had been extensions of this man. They also instructed this writer not to tell him that he couldn’t walk and they kept talking with him in a way as if he was still going to get better. The man, however, often opened up to this writer and told him how hard he had worked his whole life to make money to raise his big family. He would often cry and he went back and forth between glorifying the days that he was still on top of things and when he could no longer walk. One moment, he would laugh and talk and recall his happy life, but at another, he would shut down and scream and curse uncontrollably, swing his arms wildly and say the most horrible things about his wife and his children. He refused to take anti-anxiety medication and scolded the nurse, who was trying to make him see the benefits of it. 

Upon entering his room, this writer asked how things were going and he’d say “Hit me over the head with a baseball bat and get this damn thing over with” and burst out laughing. The daughter and his wife would hear this and get upset with him for saying that and they would again get into another ugly argument him. One day the daughter tried to tell her father what she really felt about his abusive behavior, but when she did, she was screaming at him while he was lying still in his bed. It was terrible. When she was done, he  he sat up in his bed and told her that he was getting up. Afraid that her father might fall out of bed, the daughter pushed him back and he hit her hard and told her not to stop him. This writer stepped in and the old man made it seem as if he was swinging his fist at him, but he was only jokingly gesturing. He said he was proud he had made his daughter back off.

This dying old man is a good metaphor for NVB. He had been nasty and bossy and demanding his entire life and so had his wife. This didn’t mean, however, that there was no love, no Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB). The only few moments of SVB was when other family members were around, just sitting there and letting him be the center of attention. Only then was there enough comfort for this old man to enjoy himself and be at peace. This exactly describes what is needed for us to have SVB. If all the family members would have been able to let him have SVB more often, they would have had it more often as well, but since they didn’t know about SVB, they kept on going with NVB to the very end. 

In every seminar this writer has given there were individuals who demand more attention than others. By giving attention to those who asked the most attention, this writer was able to discover that SVB always generalizes from those who need the most attention, to those who need it less. 

Back in the days, in the family in which he grew up, this writer's demanding father also always needed to be the center of the attention. His inability to give his father what he wanted led to disapproval, rejection and abandonment. Similarly to the situation with the dying man and his wife and daughter, this writer failed to please his father. His failure was his father’s success. His father’s NVB could only continue because his wife tried to please him with SVB. As the oldest son, this writer tried the hardest to gain his approval and consequently he failed. Other family members failed as well, but not as bad as he did. It is probably because of his failure that he discovered SVB. 

While reading the book "Running out of Time" this author understood that SVB is explained by the conditioning effects of the "backward chaining procedure" (Ledoux, 2014, p. 321). Various “explicit and directly accessible behaviors” can be viewed as a chain of preceding behaviors which ends with SVB. In backward chaining, we link stimuli and responses into a chain, but, unlike the forward chaining procedure, we start at the end of the chain and work our way forward towards the beginning of the chain. Our final SVB response comes about due to “evocation training” in which Voice II, which at first is an unconditioned stimulus, later becomes a conditioned stimulus. We produce Voice II without learning, when we are feeling safe, calm, at ease and happy. Each time an aspect of an earlier SVB response is reinforced in the presence of this Voice II-stimulus, this stimulus becomes an evocative stimulus for the SVB response. We describe this as “the dual functioning of a stimulus”, that is, Voice II functions as a reinforcing stimulus, but also an evocative stimulus. Thus, the Voice II-stimulus “becomes a conditioned reinforcing stimulus that can condition another response by following the other response.” (Ledoux, 2014, p.322). Moreover, “When it follows the other [SVB] response, which it reinforces, it also evokes the orgininal [SVB] response.” (Ledoux, 2014, p.322) (text and italics added). So, SVB starts with the reinforcing effects of a Voice II-stimulus, which is produced by the one who is teaching SVB. The reinforcing effects of Voice II are experienced by the verbalizer as well as by the mediator. The longer the chain, the more reinforcing opportunities we have and the more pronounced the evocative effect of the Voice II-stimulus, which is also produced by others, will be. 

So, initially, there is only the Voice II-stimulus of the teacher, who is the verbalizer. The mediator, who becomes the verbalizer, will then recognize his or her own voice as a Voice II-stimulus. This generalization process can be enhanced if more mediators become verbalizers and experience their voice as a Voice II-stimulus. However, the SVB that will begin to occur is limited to the extent that new SVB verbalizers don’t have enough ways of describing it to keep it going. Each time the new verbalizer describes it or hears others describe it, it becomes easier for everyone to continue it. This is why toward the end of each seminar all the participants fluidly express SVB. What was rehearsed was enhanced and enhanced, until it went by itself. After enough backward chaining, SVB happens effortlessly.

When this writer stumbled on SVB, he was surprised how easy it was to lose it. One moment it was there and the next it was gone. At that time in his life this writer was often by himself and so he was able to go back into his room where he would re-establish the voice which, according to him, sounded good. After he had done that, he would again go to others and try to have conversation with them with that voice only to lose it again. Again, he would go back to his room to listen to his self-talk and he let himself know what happened. Also, while talking with others and while developing early versions of SVB, he would receive agreeable feedback from others about what had happened with him. So, it was both the feedback he was able to give to himself, but which didn’t occur when he was with others, but it was also the feedback which did occur when he was with others with whom he was discovering the beginnings of SVB.

January 19, 2015

January 19, 2015

Written by Maximus Peperkamp, M.S. Verbal Engineer

Dear Reader, 
Before we can define Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB), we must first define Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB) from which it emerged. Just as our verbal behavior emerged from our nonverbal behavior phylogenetically, that is, over the course of our evolutionary history, as well as ontogenetically, that is, over the course of our life time, so too does our SVB arise from our NVB. The hungry nonverbal child cries and produces an early version of NVB, but when it is fed and comforted, the parent is delighted by the sound of its well-being and proud of its verbal behavior development.  Similarly, our cat comes to sit with us on our lap and reinforces with its purring sound our petting behavior. The cat’s body was changed by our petting and will produce loud-sounding, repetitive behaviors in the absence of our willingness to cuddle it. All babies and cats behave in this manner. Like nonverbal animals, humans avoid pain and stress and behaviors which make it go away are negatively reinforced. 

As we don’t look at our behavior from an operant perspective, we fail to see of what our arguing, coercing, screaming, complaining, fighting, retaliating, defending, attention-grabbing, obsessing, hoping, dramatizing, intellectualizing, harassing, weight-gaining, drug-using, tv-watching, book-reading, competing, pretending, manipulating, torturing, bragging, posturing, distracting, stressing, escaping, undermining, praying, destroying, doubting, failing, isolating, rejecting and self-defeating behavior is a function. All NVB is negative reinforced.

Since we don’t pay attention to functional relationships, we don’t make the distinction between SVB and NVB, but once we do that, it becomes easy to see our persistence on NVB is because we don’t know how to have SVB. Just as autistic children may manifest self-injurious problem behaviors, such as biting, hitting, head-banging or eye-poking, which are functionally related to task difficulty, attention-seeking or dislike for a person or a place, individuals who are not afflicted by autism, suffer from a similar inability to express their needs verbally and effectively, in such a way that they can be met. There is no difference between the autistic child, who succeeds in getting the attention from his parents with self-injurious behaviors and the NVB verbalizer, who is mediated by the NVB mediator. The parents of an autistic child inadvertently reinforce its problem behaviors in the same way as NVB mediators perpetuate the NVB of the verbalizer and themselves as verbalizers.

The lack of communication skills of an autistic child is a little more apparent than the lack of communication skills of the NVB verbalizer, but once we begin to distinguish between SVB and NVB, it becomes apparent that we keep recreating problems with our NVB as don’t know how to communicate in such a way that we don’t do this. No matter how successful people seem to be in getting away with their NVB, a more accurate analysis by this writer has time and again revealed that it is primarily a function of our lack of communication skills. In SVB, we communicate in a better way and anyone who has made the distinction between SVB and NVB has agreed on this. However, more than agreement is needed to learn SVB.  

January 18, 2015

January 18, 2015

Written by Maximus Peperkamp, a person living in the United States….

Dear Reader, 

This writer had a dream in which things were remembered and then again forgotten. It was not clear what things were remembered and which things were forgotten, but this writer figured there just wasn’t enough reinforcement to be able to remember what had been forgotten.

After rereading some of his writings this writer didn’t like them as much as while he was writing them. Obviously, there is a difference between writing and reading what he had written. Although the writing made the reading possible, the writer and the reader seem to be having a different behavioral history. The writer wants to keep on writing and this writing is also based on the fact that this writer finds it reinforcing to write. But, the reader is having a different opinion. He finds it not always very interesting. Sometimes he doesn’t want to read it, because he has already read it.

Today, this writer is thinking and writing about the dialogue he is having with the reader. Since he is mostly his own reader, he is commenting on what he has written. It seems to this writer that this process is very different from when a speaker is listening to him or herself. Speaking and listening happen simultaneously in Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB), but writing and reading are more likely to happen in succession. It happens that writing and reading come closer together at times, but for this writer this joining happens more often with his speaking and listening. The reason for that is that the latter is a more flexible process; speaking and listening is more flexible than writing and reading. Academia still adheres to the notion that writing and reading is more important than speaking and listening, but this writer wants to change that.

Much of what this writer writes is not based on the reinforcement from the reader. Most of what he writes is based on the fact that he likes to write, regardless of what the reader, other than himself, thinks of it. He still hopes that readers other than himself will one day read his writings and like it. This often forgotten thought reinforces him to write. Although he writes because he likes to write, he doesn’t write because he likes to read his own writing. He would rather like others to read and respond to what he writes.

It is strange that so much conversation can go on, without someone else, other than this writer as his own reader, taking note of it. This writer knows that such private conversations occur in many people, but he is sure that they happen more in him than in others. That is why he uses this writing as an outlet, because he doesn’t like to have these troubling thoughts. This writer is referring to his Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB) private speech, which is the consequence of NVB public speech. If, there was more Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB) public speech, he would have more SVB private speech, but that is unfortunately not the case. This writer feels SVB deprived because he knows the difference between SVB and NVB and according to him NVB happens almost all the time everywhere. 

This writing is this writer’s way of continuing his SVB. In recent times, he has done much more writing because he found that writing is more often possible than having a SVB conversation with someone. One goal of this writing is to have more SVB conversation in the future. He wants to change people, because he knows it is possible. He can’t think of anything else.

January 17, 2015

January 17, 2015

Written by the locus Maximus Peperkamp, M.S. Verbal Engineer

Dear Reader, 

The first chapter of Verbal Behavior (VB) by B.F. Skinner (1957) has been read and this writer will continue to explain how Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB) is an extension of this work. In spite of Skinner’s excellent book and the many other authors who have elaborated on it, even in 2015 “the subject here at issue has not been clearly indentified, nor have appropriate methods for studying been devised.” (p.4) The reason for this is that the distinction between SVB and Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB) has yet not been made. 

Something has always “taken precedence over the study of the individual speaker” (p.4) (italics added), because such a study would necessarily involve the task of having to look into how we ourselves talk. According to this writer, written language doesn’t and can’t provide the stimuli that are needed to make the reader aware of how he or she talks. 

As “someone is simply a locus at which a certain type of behavior takes place” (Forword II, Vargas, p.xxii), we must talk in order to be able to investigate ourselves, as individual speakers and as listeners. In spoken communication, “men act upon the world” (p.1) as single organisms, alone. With “causal analysis” of VB as his goal, Skinner reminds his readers to keep “certain specific engineering tasks in mind” (p.3), but his list doesn’t include the important question: How does the speaker speak, who listens to him or herself, while he or she speaks? The answer is: in ways which are completely different from the speaker who doesn't listen to him or herself. The speaker who listens to him or herself while he or she speaks is a conscious speaker, but the speaker who doesn't listen to him or herself while he or she speaks is an unconscious speaker. This difference is of utmost importance.

This writer agrees with Skinner that “the techniques necessary for a causal analysis of the behavior of man thinking” (p.4) must be developed, but he insists that “an effective frontal attack, a formulation appropriate to all special fields” requires spoken instead of written communication. Furthermore, the spoken communication which he is referring to has to be completely different from the one which didn’t and couldn’t produce these refinements. 

Refinements, necessary to be able to speak and think about “an adequate science” of VB, are only produced during SVB, but will not and cannot occur during NVB. Once we are engaging in the conversation in which SVB and NVB can be discriminated, it will be clear that only SVB can give us the power to divorce from our unhappy marriage with “special interests” (p.5). This writer agrees that “The final responsibility must rest with the behavioral sciences, and particularly with psychology” (p.5). However, once we are familiar with SVB, we recognize, we have individual responsibilities, which cannot be institutionalized. 

In the experience of this writer, who has been teaching SVB for more than 20 years, professionals who still believe in “explanatory fictions”, are just as open to SVB than radical behaviorists or behaviorologists. Upon discovering radical behaviorism and behaviorology, which explain SVB, this writer had assumed that adherents of the science of human behavior would be more open to SVB than those who still believe in a behavior-causing selves. He turned out to be wrong. Knowledge about behavioral science doesn't make behaviorists and behaviorologists one bit more capable of having SVB than those who are uninformed about this science. 

“What happens when a man speaks or responds to speech is clearly a question about human behavior and hence a question to be answered with the concepts and techniques of psychology as an experimental science of behavior” (p.5). We definitely need an environment in which we can become rational about our own way of communicating. 

Although Skinner put a lot of self-observation in his observations of others, he defines VB as the study of others. Indeed “there has never been a shortage of material (men talk and listen a great deal)” (p.5), but since our focus never becomes the study of ourselves - as speaker and as listener - directly, that is, while we speak, what continues to be “lacking is a satisfactory causal or functional treatment.” (p.5). That “collected facts” have “failed to demonstrate the significant relations which are at the heart of a scientific account” is due to the ignored ubiquity of NVB. The much-lamented continuation of “fictional causes” is maintained by how we speak, by NVB. Also, the attribution of “events taking place inside the organism” could never be dismantled, because of how we continue to talk. Stated squarely, we endlessly beat around the bush with our NVB. Skinner, therefore, is absolutely wrong when he states “we shall not arrive at this “something” even though we express an idea in every conceivable way.” (p.6). We haven't even expressed "an idea in every conceivable way." And because of that we haven't noticed the difference between how we express ideas in either a SVB or in a NVB way. If we would talk more and listen to ourselves while we speak, we would arrive at this "something" with SVB.

As long as we don’t differentiate between SVB and NVB, we have no clue as to how we are differentially affected by antecendent verbal and nonverbal stimuli. Skinner, who doesn’t do this, writes “When we say that a remark is confusing because the idea is unclear, we seem to be talking about two levels of observation although there is, in fact, only one. It is the remark which is unclear.” This writer would consider this a perfect example of NVB. The speaker wasn’t mediated by the mediator, or, rather, the mediator mediated his or her trouble understanding the speaker. It is not the remark, which wasn’t clear, but it was the NVB of the verbalizer, which wasn’t clear. However, the reader would have to talk with this writer to acknowledge this.

It happens all the time and it often goes unnoticed, that verbalizers and mediators, due to their different behavioral histories misunderstand each other. The mediator who is having more SVB repertoire than the verbalizer is having problems understanding this verbalizer, who is perceived by the mediator as having NVB. Likewise, the verbalizer, who has more SVB repertoire than the mediator, is bound to feel not listened to and misunderstood, because the fact is that he or she is often not listened to and is often misunderstood.

The mediator who listens to the verbalizer who has more SVB repertoire than him or her, could learn from this SVB verbalizer, but this can and will only happen if this verbalizer is able to focus the mediator’s attention on his or her SVB, that is, on the sound of his or her voice. As this seldom happens and as, like in Skinner’s example, both the mediator and the verbalizer are more inclined to focus on the content of the conversation, nobody pays any attention to how this content is actually communicated. Thus, even the verbalizer who has more SVB repertoire than the mediator, can be perceived by that mediator as producing NVB, which to him or to her is a way of communicating which is too different from his or her way communicating to be listened to and to be understood. This difference, which perpetuates NVB, is not going to be bridged by more information, knowledge or facts. Only when the verbalizer and the mediator find a similar way of communicating, can and will this difference be bridged. This way of communicating is SVB, which can only be taught by those who have more SVB repertoire than others.

When Skinner writes “It is the function of an explanatory fiction to allay curiosity and to bring inquiry to an end” (p.6), this writer reads this as saying that interaction, that is, SVB, has come to an end. The reason we keep getting carried away by “idioms and expressions” (an “idea”, a “meaning” and “information”), which are so common in our language that it is impossible to avoid them” (p.7) is because of NVB, which should also be characterized as disembodied communication. Since NVB dissociates us from what happens within our own skin, it inevitably disconnects us from our environment outside of our skin. Consequently, the belief persists as if language “has an independent existence apart from the behavior of the speaker.” (p.7) And, “although the formal properties of the records of utterances are interesting, we must preserve the distinction between an activity and its traces. In particular we must avoid the unnatural formulation of verbal behavior as the “use of words”.” (p.7) Our verbal learning is based on and made possible by our nonverbal learning. If we pay attention to how we sound while we speak, that is, to the nonverbal aspect of our verbal expressions, we can trace back our words to our body, which was changed and which will continue to change by the environments in which we either have SVB or NVB. As one “has not accounted for a remark by paraphrasing “what it means”” (p.9), focus on content and arguments about “meaning” or the “intention of the speaker” (p.9) will only condition us to have more NVB. Thus, this writer has found that the rejection of “the traditional formulation of verbal behavior in terms of meaning” (p.9) is not a prerequisite for SVB. Indeed, he discovered SVB without knowing anything about operant conditioning, which explains it.

However, this writer, like Skinner, proposes a “new formulation” (p.10). His  emphasis is on the spoken and not the written description of verbal behavior. Like Skinner, he asks “what conditions are relevant to the occurrence of the behavior – what are the variables of which it is a function.” (p.10). SVB can only occur in an environment in which there is a total absence of aversive stimulation. The environment in which NVB takes place is always perceived as hostile and threatening by the mediator. The variables of which SVB or NVB is function are Voice II and Voice I, two different sounding voices.

By joining and synchronizing our speaking and listening behaviors, which only happens in SVB, we will “complete the account of the verbal episode.” (p.10). Skinner is right that his formulation of VB “is only the beginning”. He refers to having an actual conversation when he writes “a host of new problems arise from the interaction of its parts. Verbal behavior is usually the effect of multiple causes.” (p.10) The problems, which we are all very familiar with, occur only during NVB and are solved and absent during SVB. 

If “a speaker is normally also a listener” (p.10) (italics added), then abnormality signifies the situation in which a speaker is not also a listener, could not also be a listener or was not allowed to also be a listener. Such a situation describes NVB. This writer believes that Skinner, much more than most other people, was aware of being his own listener while he speaks. He defines SVB when he says “a speaker is normally also a listener.” SVB is also described by “parts of what he says is under the control of other parts of his verbal behavior.” (p.10) However, the absence of such an interaction between a person’s public and private speech characterizes NVB again. 

The match between a verbalizer’s public speech and a mediator’s private speech signifies that we understand each other and is an example of SVB. “As another consequence of the fact that the speaker is also the listener, some of the behavior of listening resembles the behavior of speaking, particularly when the listener “understands” what is said.” (p.10). In SVB private speech and public speech are perceived as one and private speech can at any time become part of public speech. However, this is not the case in NVB in which private speech is excluded from public speech. Moreover, in NVB, a person’s private speech is not seen as a natural consequence of NVB public speech, but is considered agentially, as that person’s own way of dealing with things. In SVB, by contrast, it is apparent that SVB private speech always originates in SVB public speech and only occurs in this way. 

The correct and therefore healthy relationship between an individual’s public speech and private speech, which maintains our sense of normality, is also involved in the fact that “the speaker and the listener within the same skin engage in activities which traditionally are described as “thinking”.” (p.11). Indeed, the ability of the speaker to “manipulate his [verbal] behavior” (word added), to “review it, reject it or emit it in modified form” (p.11) signifies a person’s mental health. Absence of this ability to think signifies mental health problems. “The extent to which he does so varies over a wide range, determined in part by the extent to which he serves as his own listener.” (p.11) To the extent that a person is stopped from being his or her own listener, there is no editing option. As long as people prevent each other from listening to themselves while they speak, they create psychopathology with their NVB.