Talk the Talk: Intraverbals

Talk the Talk: Intraverbals

Hey all, welcome back to our Talk the Talk series on the verbal operants, a key component to understanding verbal behavior. Today we’ll be covering intraverbals. 

An intraverbal is a verbal behavior in which the form of response is under the functional control of a verbal SD that does not have point-to-point correspondence* with the verbal stimulus” (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2020 p. 416) 

Bonus Term! 

*Point-to-point correspondence – The beginning, middle, and end of a response match the stimulus presented before it. Examples of this include but aren’t limited to echoing/repeating a sample response, copying text, imitating a modeled action.  

In other words, an intraverbal is a verbal response to a verbal stimulus (SD) that is different than that response.   

It can be a bit tricky to understand just by reading definitions though, so let’s take a look at some intraverbal exchanges. 

Cooper, Heron, & Herward (2020) give a variety of examples of intraverbals: answering questions, telling stories, and recalling memories. Another super common intraverbal example is oftentimes just general conversation. For example: 

Maria runs into her friend Jess and excitedly says, “Jess! Omg, it’s been so long!”  

Jess responds by giving Maria a big hug and saying, “Oh wow, it’s been way too long! What in the world have you been up to? Still dating that girl I met at your birthday?” 

Maria drops her tone a bit and says, “Nah, we broke up a while ago. Living that single life now!” 

Jess stating “it’s been way too long” serves as an intraverbal. 

  1. It’s a verbal response 
  2. It’s in response to Maria’s verbal behavior 
  3. It does not have point-to-point correspondence with Maria’s response (meaning she didn’t purely echo what Maria said. Even though her response was similar, it wasn’t exactly the same.) 
  4. Reinforcement is not specified by the response  

Maria talking about her relationship status also serves as an intraverbal in response to Jess’ questions. 

Pay close attention to the fact that Jess ended her response with a couple questions. Don’t get tripped up! Questions are more often than not, considered to be mands, as there is motivation (MO) for the information requested. In this situation, Jess has the motivation to know how Maria is doing and if she’s still dating the girl from her party, and thus, her questions are mands.

Intraverbals aren’t limited to vocal responding either. Take a look at the texts below to see what we mean. 

As you can see, you’re likely using intraverbals all day long, whether you know it or not! Chances are if you’re having a back-and-forth conversation, there’s a ton of intraverbals being used. Do you see anywhere else in your life you’re likely to come across intraverbals? When do you think you use them most often? Are there times when you’re less likely to use an intraverbal?  

These are all great things to think about as we continue our dive into verbal behavior. Be sure to tune in to our next post for more info on ABA terms. We love geeking out with you all on this and don’t want you to miss it! 

Want to learn more ABA terminology? Check out our other Talk the Talk posts here! 


Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E., & Heward, W.L. (2020). Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Pearson Education.