The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 59–74 | Cite as

Emergence of Mands and Tacts of Novel Objects among Preschool Children

  • Anna Ingeborg Petursdottir
  • James E. Carr
  • Jack Michael


According to Skinner’s (1957) analysis of verbal behavior, the mand and the tact are functionally independent verbal operants, each of which is acquired through a unique history of reinforcement. The present study attempted to replicate the findings of Lamarre and Holland (1985), who empirically demonstrated functional independence of mands and tacts in typically developing preschool children. Five children participated. All were initially trained to complete two 4-piece assembly tasks. Four children were then trained to tact the four pieces that comprised one of the assembly tasks, and to mand for the four pieces that comprised the other task, using arbitrary vocal response forms. The remaining child received tact training only, and only on one task. The effects of training on the untrained operant were evaluated in a multipleprobe design across tasks. Following mand training, 4 out of 4 children reliably emitted tacts under testing conditions, while the effects of tact training differed across participants. The results differ from those of Lamarre and Holland, but are not necessarily surprising from the point of view of either Skinner’s analysis or more recent behavioral accounts of language. Future research should attempt to identify variables that affect transfer between mand and tact relations.

Key Words

mand tact functional independence verbal behavior children 


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Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Ingeborg Petursdottir
    • 1
  • James E. Carr
    • 1
  • Jack Michael
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazooUSA

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