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.