Verbal Behaviour

In 1934, at the age of 30, B. F. Skinner found himself at a dinner sitting next to Professor Alfred North Whitehead. Never one to lose an opportunity to promote behaviorism, Skinner expounded its main tenets to the distinguished philosopher. Whitehead acknowledged that science might account for most of human behavior but he would not include verbal behavior. He ended the discussion with a challenge: “Let me see you,” he said, “account for my behaviour as I sit here saying, ‘No black scorpion is falling upon this table.’”

Published originally in 1957. Reprinted by the B. F. Skinner Foundation in 1992 and 2002.

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