Perspectives on Behavior Science

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 345–363 | Cite as

Tutorial: Understanding Concepts: Implications for Behavior Analysts and Educators

  • T. V. Joe LayngEmail author


How we make sense of the world is founded on our understanding of simple and complex concepts, which form the basis for our vocabulary (Layng, 2016a). We often gain this understanding through life experience, but conceptual learning can be explicitly taught. This tutorial provides a brief introduction to concept learning and teaching that has its roots in behavior analysis and related disciplines (Bruner, Goodnow, & Austin, 1956; Englemann & Carnine, 1982; Markle & Tiemann, 1969; Mechner, 1962; Tiemann & Markle, 1990). Presented here are examples drawn from a sequence designed to teach physical science to elementary school learners to illustrate how concept teaching can be used to improve instruction. These examples include both intradimensional concept teaching, where features of a physical stimulus guide behavior, and interdimensional concept teaching, where relations among different stimuli guide behavior (Bruner, Goodnow, & Austin, 1956; Layng, 2014; Tiemann & Markle, 1990). Efficiencies in teaching using conceptual inheritance designs is briefly described, as well as the implications of what are referred to as conceptual hierarchies, where instances of one concept may share features inherited from a superordinate concepts. The purpose here is not to perform a literature review, but to provide an overview of how concept analysis and teaching may improve instruction.


Concept Abstract tact Intradimensional Interdimensional 



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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Generategy, LLCSeattleUSA

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