This week’s post continues the series on Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour. If you haven’t already, you should read the other posts about Manding and Echoics. This post will tackle Tacts and tacting.
- To recap, Skinner created the verbal operants and they are:
- Mands (requesting)
- Echoics (repeating what is heard)
- Tacts (labeling)
- Intraverbals (Answering questions or conversations)
- Autoclitics (phrases that impact the other operants)
What Are Tacts?
Another word for tact is label. It is important for people to know the names of items so they can clearly communicate about them. When an instructor holds up an item and asks ‘What is this?” the learner will respond with the name of the item. Learners can label the things they see, hear, smell, feel or taste.
How Should We Teach Tacting?
Similar to the other verbal operants, when teaching tacts the first step is to gauge the child’s motivation. Once you know what you’ll be using as reinforcement (paired with social praise), you can hold up the item and say “What is this?” If it is a new target, you want to immediately give the learner a prompt (errorless teaching) to avoid accidentally reinforcing an error. If the learner responds correctly, you can reinforce. It would sound something like this:
Instructor: (Holding a car) “What’s this? Car.”
Instructor: “Awesome job, it is a car!” (Gives car to learner to play with)
Instructor: (Showing picture of a dog) “What animal?”
Instructor: “That’s right! This is a dog!” (Gives learner token and high five)
Some children have a difficult time learning to label items when the question “What is this?” is asked. Some of the issues that could arise are the child repeating the question or the answer being given only when the question is posed. As a way to avoid these problems, it is a good idea to mix trials so that sometimes the instructor only holds up the item being tacted with an expectant look on their face to indicate to the child that a response is expected.
How Long Does It Take To Learn To Tact?
This depends on the learner. Each person will learn at their own pace. What happens in some cases is bursts of new vocabulary being learned at once with time between the bursts to consolidate the language. Typically developing children will have between 200 and 1,000 words by the time they’re 3 years old. Here is a list of the first 300 nouns that are commonly learned.
Why Do We Teach Tacting?
Tacting expands the learner’s vocabulary. Teaching them to label the things in their environment will help them expand their world. They will be able to speak about things with specificity. This is helpful so they’re not reliant on phrases like “that one” or more general categories to identify things.
Tacting can be tricky for some children to learn. Reach out to Side by Side Therapy if you’d like to discuss your child’s language development.