Politics, Fake News and Other Strange 21st Century Verbal Behavior 11/01/22 | WEBINAR

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by A. Charles Catania, Ph.D.

Earn 2 BACB Learning CEUs!

Language is not an instrument of truth and reason. You can tell just by attending to political verbal behavior. We’ll discuss the political verbal behavior that has led to this crucial election season in terms of verbal shaping, verbal governance, replication of verbal behavior, and other processes derived from the analysis of verbal behavior.

This 2-hour LIVE WEBINAR will air November 1 at 1:30 pm Eastern Time.

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CEUs cannot be earned from the recording.


by A. Charles Catania, Ph.D.

We’ll of course talk about what has happened to truth in contemporary American political discourse. But we’ll put it in the context of the analysis of verbal behavior. In particular, we’ll discuss four aspects of language function, each of which plays a prominent role in social discourse in general and in politics in particular. Their interlocking effects make possible the integrated systems that are essential to the maintenance of social systems, but they need not have any relation to truth or reason. The four functions are: (1) replication, as when words are repeated in a single modality or across modalities (the chants exchanged by the speaker and the audience at a political rally); (2) verbal governance, as when individuals do as they have been told or as they have come to describe what they do (the slogans that tell people how to vote); (3) the shaping of verbal behavior, as when talk is modified and redirected by its effects on audiences (the changes that come about when audiences cheer or boo what a political candidate says); and (4) differential attention to verbal material, as when people are more disposed to search out literature that agrees with positions they already hold than literature that poses incompatible views (the sharper focus of attention as audiences become increasingly insular in the websites they visit). The same kinds of terms are involved in each of these functions, and therefore they can easily support each other. We’ll discuss how they typically work together in many human cultural systems, from educational institutions to religious fundamentalism and to (sometimes maybe not so far removed from fundamentalism) to politics. As political examples consider (1) the repetition of slogans, (2) the following of policies laid out by party leaders, (3) the differential acceptance of ways of talking about candidates, and (4) the seeking out of rallies and other events that offer access to influential figures. We will also consider verbal practices that may help to reduce or prevent some of the deleterious effects of these verbal functions.

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Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of the workshop, participants will be able to:

  1. Participants will learn to distinguish between behavior that has been shaped by its consequences (contingency-shaped) and behavior that depends on verbal antecedents (verbally governed).

  2. Participants will learn what to look for to identify verbal shaping as it occurs in natural environments.

  3. Participants will learn what to look for to identify verbal governance as it occurs in natural environments.

  4. Participants will be able to list the conditions that must be satisfied to identify relations between words and actions as say-do correspondences.

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