Talk the Talk: Manding

Talk the Talk: Manding

Hey all, welcome back to Talk the Talk! We’ve covered a lot in our posts so far and now we’ll be moving on to a pretty big component of behavior analysis: Verbal Behavior. As defined in Cooper, Heron, and Heward (2020), verbal behavior is “behavior whose reinforcement is mediated by a listener.” In other words, the reinforcement for verbal behavior has to come from another person’s actions. But what in the world does that mean? Let’s dive in briefly. 

To start, verbal behavior involves two participants, the speaker and the listener. We use the term speaker with caution though, as not all verbal behavior requires a person to talk! Think of actions such as gestures, writing, sign language, etc. All of these can communicate things without speaking.  

Secondly, verbal behavior is broken down into various categories that are called verbal operants. In the next few Talk the Talk posts, we’ll be going over some of the most commonly observed verbal operants: mandtactechoic, and intraverbal. For today, we will only be discussing mands. 

Mand: A type of verbal behavior in which the form of the behavior is under the control of a motivating operation (MO) and specific reinforcement. 

In other words: A mand is a response that starts with motivation for something and then communicates to the listener what it is that the speaker has motivation for.  

It can be a bit complex at first, so let’s take a look at some examples… 


Mand for water: 

  • Marco hasn’t had a drink for 3 hours and is pretty thirsty (here’s the MO!). When he gets home, he asks his wife if she can pour him a glass of water (there’s the mand) while he changes out of his work clothes. After he’s finished changing, Marco drinks the water his wife poured for him.
  • Marco had motivation for water, and his asking for water specified that water would be the reinforcer for his question/request. 


Mand for Information: 

  • Cynthia wants to know what time dinner will be (there’s the MO). She asks her partner when they think dinner will be ready (here’s our mand!). Her partner tells her it’ll be ready in 5 minutes. Cynthia finishes the project she’s working on and heads to the table toward the end of the 5 minutes. 
  • Cynthia had motivation for a piece of information – what time dinner was. She asked the question and received the information she sought. 


Mand for Something to Stop: 

  • Darnel is supervising his kids swimming in their backyard pool. His son begins to run around the pool, a big safety issue (there’s his MO!). Darnel calls out his son’s name and gives him a disapproving headshake (this is a non-vocal mand), indicating that he’s not to be running around the pool. His son begrudgingly stops running and walks around the pool instead. 
  • Darnel had motivation for his son to stop running. He gave his son the tell-tale headshake and the son stopped running. 

If you look closely, you can find the same elements in all three of these examples: 

  1. Speaker – there is someone who is communicating the mand 
  2. Listener – there is someone who is receiving the mand and delivering the reinforcer 
  3. Motivation – the speaker has motivation for something (a tangible, an action, a piece of information, for an action to stop, etc.) 
  4. The speaker engages in a response in an effort to get their want/need met by the listener. 

When considering whether or not something is a mand, take a look and see if you’re seeing all four of those elements in the current scenario. They can be pretty tricky, so remember to ask yourself the above primary questions.

Did your scenario meet all 4 requirements? If so, it’s pretty clearly a mand! Did it miss one or more of the requirements? It’s likely not a mand, so you might want to look a little closer to be sure. 

Manding is a huge component to our daily lives and can be observed all the time. Keep your eye out for it and you’ll be surprised at just how often you’re seeing it occur! Stay tuned for the next Talk the Talk post where we continue our conversation on the verbal operants and discuss tacts. 

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Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2020). Applied Behavior Analysis. Pearson.