“In learning to drive a car a person remains dependent on an instructor as long as he must be told when to apply the brakes, when to signal a turn, when to change speeds and so on; when his behaviour comes under the control of the natural consequences of driving a car, he may dispense with the instructor.” - B.F. Skinner (from ‘Beyond Freedom and Dignity’)
I actually use this as an example in my behaviour workshops to highlight the use of verbal prompts and the need to fade such prompts quickly. A prompt is a temporary cue used to elicit desired behaviour. They are added to the A-B-C chain of events to help people learn, be successful.
Prompts can occur in many forms but verbal is the easiest and readily available form. They do however create instances where behaviours are dependent on others before they will occur. As Skinner put it, we want people to learn to respond based on the cues that already exist in the natural environment. Thus, verbal prompts should always be on our radar as something we want to eventually fade. Imagine still being dependent on your mom or dad telling you to “stop”, “slow down” or “remember your turn signal” when driving in order to get to where you need to be. We don’t need nor want - in some cases - those verbal prompts.
Now think of how many other verbal prompts we give in a day. Find yourself nagging your significant other? Your children? They might not necessarily be forgetful or lazy; rather, they have learned to do what you want only after you’ve said something. They are dependent on the very thing you want to be doing less of. The ‘A’ of the A-B-C chain is you! You are the driving instructor. More attention to the road signs of life may help you both get to where you want go.