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Tact Extensions Comin' in Hot!

In B.F. Skinner's "Verbal Behavior," Chapter 5 focuses on tacts, which are a type of verbal behavior where an individual labels or describes objects, actions, events, or properties in the environment. Tacts are often considered to be one of the foundational components of verbal communication.

In the context of tacts, Skinner discusses various concepts related to stimulus control and stimulus generalization, including tact extensions.
Here's an explanation of tact extensions and the different types mentioned:

Generic Extension: Generic extension is a form of stimulus generalization. In this case, a learner responds to a novel stimulus that contains all the relevant features of the original stimulus they were taught to label.

For example, if a learner has been taught to label the "sun" when they see the actual sun in the sky, they may also correctly label a cartoon depiction of the sun, as it contains all the essential features of the real sun.

Metaphoric Extension: Metaphoric extension occurs when a learner responds to a novel stimulus that has only some of the defining features of the original stimulus. In this case, the learner identifies a common property or characteristic between the original and the novel stimulus.

For example, if a learner sees a video of the sun and says, "The sun is like a fire," they are drawing a metaphorical connection based on the common property of both being hot.
Metonymical Extension: Metonymical extension involves a learner responding to a novel stimulus where some irrelevant but related feature of the original stimulus controls the response. This often occurs when stimuli are accidentally paired, and the learner makes a connection based on this accidental association.

For example, if a student is asked to label the "sun" but instead says "beach," it might be because they have experienced the sun and the beach together and formed an accidental association.
Solecistic Extension: Solecistic extension occurs when a stimulus property that is only indirectly related to the tact relation evokes substandard verbal behavior. This can include instances of malapropisms, where the learner makes an incorrect or nonsensical response based on some indirect association.

For example, when pointing towards the sun, a student might exclaim "banana," which is clearly an incorrect response.

These different types of tact extensions highlight how learners may generalize their verbal behavior to various degrees when encountering novel stimuli. Understanding these extensions is important in the study of language acquisition and communication, as they demonstrate how individuals can adapt their verbal behavior to different situations and stimuli.

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Dr. Trudy Georgio is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst in the state of Texas. She is the founder of Tru Behavior Development, LLC who is motivated by effecting socially significant behavior change and disseminating the science of behavior to the next generation of behavior analysts!


Skinner, Burrhus Frederick (1957), Verbal Behavior, Acton, MA: Copley Publishing Group, ISBN 1-58390-021-7 p. 187

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