Manding for Information – Teaching WH Requests

Manding for information is an important skill. I ask questions all day.

Manding for information refers to the process in which information becomes a conditioned reinforcer as it leads to an already established reinforcer. So basically, ask a question, and use the information to do/get something useful.

featured-content-ipad-icon_2xHere’s an example;

Learner: ‘where’s the iPad?’ (this is the ultimate reinforcer)

Adult/peer: ‘in the kitchen’ (the useful information leading to the ultimate reinforcer)

Learner goes to the kitchen to get the iPad

Here’s some practical tips on how you can teach this skill. When you start out, you need to identify some strong reinforcers; these can be used as the items/activities that motivate/reinforce the learner to ask the ‘wh’ questions. The reason you should start out with highly motivating items is because nobody asks a question if they don’t care about the answer (for example, I am very unlikely to ask ‘where’s the cauliflower’ and much more likely to ask ‘where’s the chocolate’).

You should teach at least 2 WH questions at the same time to help with discrimination hex_pat(so the learner doesn’t just ask ‘what’ questions all of the time).

It doesn’t always have to be a really creative process when teaching this skill, there are plenty of everyday situations in which you ask different ‘wh’ questions (it can be really creative as well if you want).

Remember it’s the information which is valuable, if you’re learner says ‘where’s the iPad?’ don’t just deliver the iPad, tell them the location, then they have to use the information to go and get it. The information is the reinforcer.

Manding for information lesson plans are a good way to prompt you when to use different ‘wh’ questions. It is good to not do 20 what questions in a row, and then 20 where questions, mix it up a bit, intersperse the WH questions. Lesson plans are also a good way to plan out;

1) the contrived situation

2) what information becomes reinforcing

3) what the ultimate reinforcer is

It breaks down the process that the learner goes through. It’s also good to teach during naturally occurring situations throughout the day even if you haven’t planned to do so (so when in a shop, the learner might spontaneously request a magazine, but they don’t know where it is, prompt ‘where is the magazine?’).

Generalise the way you can ask WH questions, for example, ‘what is it?’, ‘what are you watching?’, ‘what are you doing?’, ‘where’s the IPad?’, ‘where are we going?’ etc. This will encourage the learner to emit novel responses, which is the ultimate goal. Don’t just teach ‘where is it?’ and ‘what is it?’.


Manding for info data sheet (adapted from Carbone Clinic data Sheet)

Now, I’d never say no to data, it’s always a good 
way to track if what you’re doing is effective
. You can even just tally prompted versus spontaneous use of the targeted WH uestions

As always, differentially reinforce responses (give more social praise/reinforcement for more spontaneous responses).

So if you want to work on this in a spare 15 minute period, firstly give some thought to what the ultimate reinforcer will be (what is the learner getting out of it), think about which WH questions you are targeting (might be 2 for intensity, or more than 2, depends on the learner), and get ready to create situations for the learner to ask. When you have identified that the learner has motivation for the information, the teaching procedure would be as follows,

  • Contrive situation (adult says – ‘lets play with the iPad’)
  • Prompt response (adult models what to say -‘where is the iPad?’ and waits for the learner to repeat it back (this is an echoic prompt))
  • Fade your prompt (independent response if possible ‘where’s the iPad?’)
  • Give the information and differentially reinforce (dependent on how independent the learner’s responses were)

If manding for information is totally new to your learner, it may be worth running a few trials using steps 1, 2, and 4 (contrive, prompt, give information), and you can fade your prompts over each trial, again, it depends on the learner.

The awesome Busy Analytical Bee has also just posted about this – you should check it out for some good ideas how to teach each WH mand –

So there you have it, a brief snippet on how to teach a real important part of your learners’ mand repertoire.