Verbal Summator Files (Skinner’s audio projective test)

cd2Several old verbal summator records were recently found buried in storage in the Psychology building at the University of Minnesota – thanks to Gail Peterson. Three loose record labels with the name “B.F. Skinner” were found with them. Although not the original Verbal Summator records of Skinner 1936, the word-like sounds on them are the same as those created by Skinner for his original studies at Harvard, and they are in Skinner’s voice. Moreover, B. F. Skinner himself oversaw the research at the U of M in which these records were used. These records were last played in 1938, using Skinner’s “Repeating Device”. They have now all been transcribed to digital format, and a short section has been edited to show what it would sound like in use.

The repetitive audio should be played very softly to get an idea of how the verbal summator was used. Participants would listen to the utterances until they thought they understood what was being said. Their comments were then written down. As with the Rorschach inkblot test, participants’ responses would reflect their own concerns and interests, since the sounds had no meaning.