It’s very possible at some point you have heard the words “tact” and “mand” thrown around. But what do these words mean? Are they slang for something? “Tact” and “mand” are actually terms coined by B.F. Skinner. They are two popular verbal operants to describe components of language.
A tact is described by Skinner as being controlled by a nonverbal stimulus and reinforced by non-specific praise. Let’s break that down. A nonverbal stimulus usually refers to visual stimulus, so for example, Johnny sees a cow. Johnny says “Cow!” and then the behavior is reinforced by non-specific praise. Non-specific just means that the reinforcement will be different from what Johnny had actually said. (Johnny parents are not going to give him a cow). Typically they would reinforce by saying something like “You’re right, Johnny! It is a cow!” Tacts are easiest to think about as labels for names for people, places, and things.
The word “mand” is taken from words such as “demand” and “command”. When you think of mand you should think of a request for something. As Skinner puts it a mand is controlled by an establishing operation and reinforced by a specified reinforcer. What this means is that in order for a request to be considered a mand, the client must actually want whatever they are asking for. For example, if Sally asks for a chip and when someone gave her a chip she no longer wanted it, this is probably not a mand. However, if Sally asks for a chip, you give her a chip and she eats it, this is a mand. “Specified reinforcement” refers to a person receiving specifically what they are asking for.