Motivative Operations and the Mand

MOs are of significant value in mand training because they can be “contrived” and “captured”. One can contrive an MO by manipulating the environment in ways that will make certain outcomes more valuable. This can be done, for example, by controlling access to reinforcement while asking the child to do something that requires obtaining the reinforcer. The value of having a spoon may be increased if a child is given a bowl of pudding without the spoon. One can capture a transitive MO by providing an opportunity to access reinforcement when the child naturally needs the reinforcer in order to access some other reinforcer. For example, the value of having a door opened may increase on the occasion when the child is motivated to play outdoors. Motivative operations for unlearned reinforcers can also be contrived (planning deprivation) or captured (teaching after a period of deprivation).

Here are some other examples of contriving an MO:

  • Giving the child a bottle of water with a tight lid when the child is thirsty.
  • Giving the child a bowl of cereal with no spoon.
  • Giving the child a toy that requires batteries but withholding the batteries.
  • Briefly turning on his or her favorite video.
  • Giving a bit of his or her favorite snack to another child.
  • Use of an interrupted chain procedure: give the child a task to do that involves a series of steps but withhold the materials needed to complete at least one step (have the child do a puzzle but withhold one piece).

Here are some other examples of capturing an MO:

  • Teaching mands for food at snack or at lunch.
  • Having the child ask for shoes before going out to play.
  • Encouraging the child to ask for the remote at the time a favorite show is on.