Functional Assessment of Drug Trafficking Terms: A Substantive and Methodological Expansion of a Verbal Behavior Research Program

Angela Sanguinetti, Wendy Reyes


Narcotics trafficking is often described in ambiguous and inaccurate terms. This is problematic because imprecise verbal behavior in relation to some state of affairs inhibits effective action with regard to those events. An innovative methodology was used to explore verbal behavior in diverse media reports following the 2001 prison escape of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, reputed prominent agent of the “Sinaloa Cartel.” Results demonstrated that the terms “cartel,” “mafia,” gang,” and “organization” were controlled in part by the same stimulus conditions, but which was emitted on a particular occasion was predictably related to other variables, including the speaker’s affiliation, immediate verbal context, and country of publication. We conclude that more precise terminology could improve efforts to understand and curtail narcotics trafficking. We also believe this methodology should continue to be developed as it may prove useful in analyzing other terms related to important social issues.


drug trafficking, functional analysis, mentalistic terms, verbal behavior

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility