Mando – Verbal Operant | Behavioral Psychology

Command  is a term that BF 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 stimulation with aversion. It cannot be determined, on the basis of form alone, that an answer is a command ; it is necessary to know the types of variables that control a response in order to identify a verbal operant. It is sometimes said that a command  “specifies its reinforcement”, although this is not always the case. Skinner introduced the command as one of the six primary verbal operants in his 1957 work,  Verbal Behavior .

Chapter three of Skinner’s work,  Verbal Behavior , discusses a functional relationship called mand . A mand is a form of verbal behavior , which is controlled by deprivation, satiety, or what is now called operations of motivation (OM), as well as a history of control. An example of this would be to ask for water when you are  deprived of water (“thirst”). It is tempting to say that a command  describes its reinforcement , which sometimes happens. But many mandates have no correspondence with the reinforcer. For example, a loud knock can be a command to “open the door” and a servant can be called by clapping as much as a child can “ask for milk.”

Mandos differ from other verbal operants, in that it mainly benefits the speaker, while other verbal operants work primarily for the benefit of the listener. This does not mean that the command function  is exclusively in favor of the speaker, however; Skinner gives the example of the advice, “Go west!” as having the potential to generate consequences that will be reinforcing for both speaker and listener. When warnings like “Watch out!” are attended to, the listener can avoid aversive stimulation.

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


  • 1.  Dynamic properties
  • 2.  Extended mandates
  • 1  Superstitious command
  • 2  magical commands
  • 3.  Clinical application
  • 4.  References

1. Dynamic properties

The form of the command, being under the control of deprivation and stimulation, will vary in energy level. Dynamic qualities must be understood as variations that arise due to multiple causes. Dynamics in this case is the opposite, as someone reading from a text may appear to not simulate the normal dynamic qualities of verbal behavior. Mandates tend to be permanent when purchased. [2]

2. Extended mandates

Issuing commands to objects or animals that cannot provide an appropriate response would be an example of extended command . Say “stop!” to someone out of earshot, perhaps in a movie, who is about to get hurt, is an example of extended command. Extended commands occur due to prolonged control of stimuli. In the case of a prolonged mand, the listener is unable to deliver consequences that would reinforce the mand, but they have enough in common with the listeners who have previously reinforced the mand, and stimulus control can be inferred.

2.1. Superstitious mandates

Commands directed at inanimate objects can be called superstitious commands. Commands for an unreliable car like “go, turn on fdp!”, For example, may be due to a history of intermittent reinforcement.

2.2 Magic commands

magical mand is a form where the consequences of specified mandates have never occurred. The “Give me a million dollars” form never produced a million dollars before and would therefore be classified as a magical command. Skinner postulates that many literary mandates are magical. The sentence can also be analyzed as belonging to one of the three categories above, depending on your opinion on the probability and the mechanism of your response.

3. Clinical application

The lack of command properly appears to be correlated with destructive behavior. [3]  This appears to be especially true for those with developmental disabilities.


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