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  • Michelle Vinokurov

Verbal Operants


What are verbal operants?


Verbal operants are kinds of verbal behaviors people demonstrate. These verbal behaviors in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) help promote language development. They aim to help children develop communication and language skills by understanding ways words are used and the importance of communication. Here are the six verbal operants/behaviors that help with language development:

1. Mand is a kind of verbal operant known for the person to request, ask, or demand for something through expressive language. Unlike the other verbal operant behaviors, there is a motivation operation. Here is an example of mand applied in a home setting:

  • The child is hungry and wants to eat pizza. (antecedent)

  • The child says "pizza.” (behavior)

  • Mom gives the child a slice of pizza. (consequence)

2. Tact is a verbal operant known as labeling or naming. It involves the five senses, so the person expresses the object, property, or feeling based on their five senses. Here is an example of tact applied in a home setting:

  • The child sees a dog in the backyard. (antecedent)

  • The child says “dog." (behavior)

  • The parent says, “I see a dog in the backyard too.” (consequence)

3. Echoic is a verbal operant involving repetition of someone else’s words; the person repeats spoken word(s) from another person. Here is an example of echoic applied in a home setting:

  • The child hears a parent say “pie.” (antecedent)

  • The child says “pie.” (behavior)

  • The parent says, “You said pie. Good job!” (consequence)

4. Textual is a verbal operant involving the person reading written words. Here is an example of textual applied in a therapy session:

  • The therapist presents the written word, “shoe.” (antecedent)

  • The child says "shoe.” (behavior)

  • The therapist says, “That is the word shoe. Great job!” (consequence)

5. Transcription is a verbal operant involving dictation. The client writes and spells the spoken word. Here is an example of transcription applied in a classroom setting:

  • The teacher says, “Spell the word - cookie” (antecedent)

  • The child writes: c-o-o-k-i-e (behavior)

  • The teacher says, “You spelled the word cookie correctly. Great job!” (consequence)

6. Interverbal is a verbal operant used in typical conversations. It involves asking questions and having conversations with the person. Here is an example of intraverbal applied in a classroom setting:

  • The teacher asks, “What shape is round?” (antecedent)

  • The child says, “circle.” (behavior)

  • The teacher says, “Yes, a circle is round. Good job!” (consequence).


Would you apply any of these verbal operants/behaviors to help someone on the autism spectrum develop language and communication skills? Which ones? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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