Talk the Talk: Tacting

Talk the Talk: Tacting

Hello again!  It’s your Talk the Talk team here with another exciting post about verbal behavior.  Just to refresh your memory, we’ve been diving into the components of verbal behavior, specifically the most common verbal operants.  As you may recall, verbal behavior is “behavior whose reinforcement is mediated by a listener” (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2020).  In other words, the reinforcement for verbal behavior must come from another person’s actions.  

In our previous post, we discussed the mand, which is just another way to explain the act of making a request.  Today we will be looking at another verbal operant, the tact. Let’s get started! 

“A tact is a label for something you see, hear, smell, taste or touch. The antecedent for a tact is some form of stimulus (the actual item, a picture, a sound, or a smell) and the consequence for a tact is indirect reinforcement, such as praise” (Barbera & Rasmussen, 2007, p. 119). In other words, you can think of tacting sort of as labelling or commenting on something in the environment. 

Now let’s dissect this behavior analytically… 

During an instance of tacting, a person comes into contact with a non-verbal discriminative stimulus (SD) and engages in a response in return. When that response then contacts a generalized conditioned reinforcer, it comes under control of the nonverbal SD (Cooper, 2007, p. 530). 

Now, this seems easy enoughLet’s take a look at some examples of how tacting can occur in the natural environment using the three-term contingency (or ABC data).  

Every tact has the same general structure: 

  1.  Personsees (or hears, smells, tastes, etc.) something
  2.  Personlabelsaspect of the stimulus (name, flavor, size, temperature, etc.) 
  3.  Person contacts generalized conditioned reinforcer(ex: praise, tickles) 

Tacts are an essential part of verbal behavior and they enable learners to increase their functional language repertoire.  Look and listen as you go through your day and try to identify the tacts occurring around you and even in your own behavior! 

Stay tuned as we continue our exploration of the verbal operants. In future posts, we’ll take a look at intraverbals and echoics. 

Want to learn more ABA terminology? Check out our other Talk the Talk posts here! 



Barbera, M. L., & Rasmussen, T. (2007). The verbal behavior approach: How to teach children with autism and related disorders. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 

Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E., & Heward, W.L. (2020). Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Pearson Education.