Some terms used within the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) community may seem confusing until you realize how often they occur. One of those examples is the term MAND. Also known as a request, a mand is a type of learned behavior that is reinforced by a specific consequence. It is controlled by two things:
- A motivating operation (MO), usually a desire for an item/activity
- And discriminative stimuli (SD), usually in the form of a listener.
Simply put, a mand is another term for requesting for an item, activity, etc. Mands are some of the first forms of communication that we acquire during development. This is most likely because it directly benefits us as the speaker by communicating our wants and needs. Well, we also have various types of mands, one of which is the EXTENDED MAND.
Extended mands also depend on an MO and an SD, but they’re typically delivered to items or animals. This is due to “extended” stimulus control. (Miguel, 2017). Moreover, these extended mands may be incidentally reinforced. For example, think about the biggest sports fan you know.
Extended MAND Examples
The biggest sports fan you know probably scream at the TV during a big play. They also may jump up and down with excitement when their favorite player is about to score a touchdown. That player could not have possibly scored the touchdown due to that person’s cheering. But the cheering behavior is still reinforced when they see the outcome they so badly wanted.
In some cases, such as this one, reinforcement might be granted incidentally, since the touch down and the cheering behavior are not based on a direct relation between one another. Similarly, when I worked with an 11 year-old soccer fanatic, we spent a lot of time reinforcing him with soccer videos for the work he does. During this time, he would yell at the players to make a goal, despite whether they actually did or not.
How Extended MANDs are Shaped
These examples show how an extended mand is shaped through “extended” control by the SD, or through accidental reinforcement, not because of the true link between the request and its naturally occurring consequence, but rather through a coincidental occurrence that created a learning history between the mand and the consequence. In addition, mands can also occur even when the request spoken doesn’t exactly match the item/activity requested.
This happened once with a 5-year old that I worked with, who was very motivated by food. He would mand for “blueberries” by mistake, in hopes of receiving strawberries. Until I caught on, I was searching all over the place for something that wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Even when asking for blueberries, he still eventually got access to the food he wanted and the correct word was later taught.
With an early learner like this, we reinforced manding attempts but also focused on reducing these kinds of extended mands, such saying blueberries instead of strawberries, by rewarding requests that identified the correct item desired. Since manding allows us to get what we need in a functionally appropriate manner, it ultimately helps reduce problem behavior related to communication issues; it prevents miscommunication, which can lead to frustration and challenging behavior, and fosters collaboration and mutual reinforcement between the child and the speaker.
Manding is such an important part of the development of a child and their ability to communicate effectively with others. When we realize just how often we mand, it truly shows how much we rely on others as listeners to access items or information that we could not otherwise have accessed on our own.