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Echoic-to-Mand Transfer

Mom says “cookie,” toddler repeats “cookie!” When Grandpa signs “ball,” grandchild also uses sign language to sign “ball.” While enjoying a summer day at the beach, you turn to your friend and exclaim “I want ice cream.” A child demands “cartoons!” when they walk into the living room. After studying all day, the student puts away their books and goes outside, saying “soccer” as they head towards the fields. These are examples of echoics and mands.

If you have not yet read our blog post on Verbal Operants, a good first step is to start there to get a better understanding of the two verbal operants we will be talking about here: echoics and mands, as well as how to perform the echoic-to-mand transfer.

What Is An Echoic?

In its most basic sense, an echoic is a repetition, or an exact copy. This means that what the learner communicates and how the learner communicates are identical to the model; the learner will communicate the same thing, in the same way the model does.

Model vocalizes “cookie,” learner vocalizes “cookie”
Model writes “ball,” learner writes “ball”

If the model uses vocal language to communicate, the learner will also use vocal language to perform the echoic – the formal similarity and point-to-point correspondence is a feature of the echoic verbal operant.

If the model vocalizes “cup,” and the learner uses sign language to communicate “cup,” that does not have formal similarity or point-to-point correspondence and is therefore not an echoic.

What is Formal Similarity?

Formal similarity is when the antecedent (what the model presents) and the response (what the learner emits) share the same sense mode – both are visual such as copying printed text, or both are tactile such as imitating sign language, etc.

What Is A Mand?

A mand is a command, demand, or countermand. It is a way of making a request. This means that the speaker is stating what they want, whether it is an item, action, or activity – you say “pizza” because you want pizza.

Before the echoic-to-mand transfer can be taught, the learner should have mastered the echoic procedure (review the Verbal Requesting post here to learn how to perform and expand on verbal requesting procedures).

What Is In It For The Learner?

We always need to ask ourselves what is in it for them? Manding gets the person what they want, when they want it thereby reducing problem behaviours, increasing independence, and promoting communication skills. The mand is under the stimulus control of the motivation or Establishing Operation (EO), for the echoic-to-mand transfer the model uses the echoic procedure then transfers it to a mand.

How To:

Step 1: Set Up Motivation
This is the time to bring out the cool toys or yummy snacks! You want the learner to indicate that they want these highly motivating and preferred items – by reaching towards the item, using non-verbal communication, vocalizing, etc.

Step 2: The Echoic
The instructor provides the verbal model – the learner repeats the verbal model.

HOLD THE REINFORCEMENT! This is where we add the Transfer Trial in between!

Step 3: The Transfer Trial
Instructor states “huh?”, “what do you want?”, “what was that?”, etc.
The Transfer Trial is added so that the learner is requesting by themselves, and not exclusively repeating the model.

Step 4: The Mand
The learner repeats what the instructor initially said.

Step 5: Reinforcement
The learner receives the item requested and is provided with praise!


Instructor: plays with new cause-and-effect toy, which is a highly preferred item for this learner
Learner: indicates they want access to this highly preferred toy – reaches towards the toy, etc.
Instructor: “I want car”
Learner: echoes the phrase, “I want car” (Echoic)
Instructor: “huh?” (Transfer Trial)
Learner: “I want car” (Mand)
Instructor: provides toy and praise as reinforcement

What If…?

What happens when the learner does not respond after the transfer trial? Use a visual aid! During this time we do not want to provide verbal prompts or models (which would turn it into another echoic response) – have a picture of the item being requested and provide it after the transfer trial (“huh?”).

Check out our YouTube Video on Error Correction When Teaching Requesting (Manding)

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