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Mand is a term that B.F. Skinner used to describe a verbal operant in which the response is reinforced by a characteristic consequence and is therefore under the functional control of relevant conditions of deprivation or aversive stimulation. A mand is sometimes said to "specify its reinforcement" although this is not always the case. Skinner introduced the mand as one of six primary verbal operants in his 1957 work, Verbal Behavior.

Chapter three of Skinner's work, Verbal Behavior, discusses a functional relationship called the mand. A mand is a form of verbal behavior that is controlled by deprivation, satiation, or what is now called motivating operations (MO), as well as a controlling history. An example of this would be asking for water when one is water deprived ("thirsty"). It is tempting to say that a mand describes its reinforcer, which it sometimes does. But mands may have no correspondence to the reinforcer. For example, a loud knock may be a mand "open the door" and a servant may be called by a hand clap as much as a child might "ask for milk".

The Lamarre & Holland (1985) study on mands would be one example of a research study in this area. [1]


Dynamic Properties

The mand form, being under the control of deprivation and stimulation, will vary in energy level. Dynamic qualities are to be understood as variations that arise as a function of multiple causes. Dynamic in this case is opposed how someone reading from a text might sound if they do not simulate the normal dynamic qualities of verbal behavior.

Extended Mands

Emitting mands to objects or animals that cannot possibly supply an appropriate response would be an example of the extended Mand. Telling "stop!" to someone out of earshot, perhaps in a film, who is about to hurt themselves is an example of the extended mand.

Superstitious Mands

Mands directed to inanimate objects may be said to be superstitious mands. Mands to an unreliable car to "come on and start" for example may be due to a history of intermittent reinforcement.

Magical Mands

A magical mand is a mand form where the consequences have never occurred that are specified in the mand. The form "I wish I had a million dollars" has never before produced a million dollars might be said to be magical. Skinner posits that many literary mands are of the magical form. Prayer might also be analyzed as belonging in one of the above three categories, depending upon one's opinion of the likelihood and mechanism of its answer.


  1. ^ Lamarre, J; Holland, J.G. (1985), "The functional independence of mands and tacts.", Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 43: 5–19, doi:10.1901/jeab.1985.43-5,  


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