Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




The position taken in this paper is that the observable world is the only one needed in our analysis, that behavior is a reaction to the environments in which it occurs, and that language is more behavior that can be studied effectively as a dependent variable that varies as a function of independent variables manipulated by the experimenter.

Our goal was to study topography-based and selection-based verbal behavior with emphasis on the writing response and then to produce a report that would serve as a guide for other students of behavior and environment.

Sixteen undergraduate college students participated in 115 sessions. They learned an artificial language consisting of 16 classes, each made up of a nonsense syllable, a visual pattern and a Japanese Katakana symbol (written or selected). The instruction was accomplished with simple, table-top methods available to anyone.

Topography-based tasks resulted in fewer errors than selection-based tasks in nine of 11 stages of the experiment. The acquisition stage yielded statistically significant comparisons but not the later review and testing stages. During training there were also significant differences due to several confounding variables such as the phases of the experiment, the sequence of instruction and the sensory modes employed.

These results provided a basis for discussion of the general features of topography-based and selection-based verbal behavior as well as implications for education and suggestions for future studies.

The report ends with a message to the student: we need people who play with behavior (B) and environment (E), with the ongoing stream of BEing as revealed by experiment. Early scientists took the motto, "Nullius in Verba" which they translated as "Take nobody's word for it; see for yourself." (Boorstin, 1983) As the wise man said, "Know what is in thy sight, and what is hidden from thee will be revealed to thee." (Jesus, quoted by Thomas Didymos, in Guillaumont, Puech, Quispel, Till, & Abd al Masih, 1959)

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons