Dr. Phil Hineline – An elephant in our verbal room
This presentation was recorded at the 2014 CCBS Annual Meeting of the Trustees
1.0 Type II CE Credit
“An elephant in the room” is understood as something important and omnipresent that the affected people do not acknowledge. Metaphorically speaking, narrative is such an elephant with respect to the community of behavior analysts. Narrative permeates not only mystery stories and other novels: it is salient in newspaper and magazine discussions of social problems; it is part of the standard formula for political speeches and for soliciting money for worthy causes; and, of course, story-telling occupies much of ordinary conversation. Nevertheless, behavior analysts have had little to say about narrative, perhaps because its salient characteristics are mainly structural, whereas behavior analysis addresses mainly the functions of verbal behavior. In addition, the role of the individual listener’s behavior is crucial, and behavior analysts have tended to homogenize the listener’s role as that of “audience” or “verbal community.” Despite these limitations, behavior analysis has delineated a few phenomena that appear to be relevant: joint attention and the discriminations and functions involved in imitation, equivalence classes and relational frames are a few. Reinforcement often resides in the completion of patterns, or in the answering of questions that may be supplied only implicitly. In addition, a key principle that sustains the engagement of reader or listener involves establishing stimuli and reinforcement contingencies that are operative on multiple, overlapping time scales.