Edwin Arlington Robinson

Observant of the way she told
 So much of what was true,
No vanity could long withhold
 Regard that was her due:
She spared him the familiar guile,
 So easily achieved,
That only made a man to smile
 And left him undeceived.

Aware that all imagining
 Of more than what she meant
Would urge an end of everything,
 He stayed; and when he went,
They parted with a merry word
 That was to him as light
As any that was ever heard
 Upon a starry night.

She smiled a little, knowing well
 That he would not remark
The ruins of a day that fell
 Around her in the dark:
He saw no ruins anywhere,
 Nor fancied there were scars
On anyone who lingered there,
 Alone below the stars.

"A verbal operant in which a response of given form is evoked (or at least strengthened) by a particular object or event or property of an object or event" -- B.F. Skinner, 1957

A tact is a voicing of a word in response to a non-verbal object or attribute in the environment. Or to put it more simply, a tact is the naming of an object, action, event, etc. This is one of the stages of language learning in children. And is often simply referred to as labeling.

This stage follows the echoic stage, in which the child merely repeats what e hears. Tacting is different from manding; a mand is a response to the child's desire for an object, while a tact is a response to the actual object. Tact is also different from interverbal, in that an interverbal is specifically in response to spoken language, while tact is in response to non-verbal objects and conditions.

If you wish to reinforce the use of tacts by a child, do not reward the use of a word by presenting the child with the referred-to object; that would reinforce the use of the word as a mand. Instead, use verbal or kinesic rewards -- "That's right, that's a cat!", or a smile.

Tacts are of interest to behavioral psychologists and speech therapists. Other things in the same vein and of interest to the same people are Mand, Echoic, Intraverbal, Receptive repertoire, and Imitation.

Tact (?), n. [L. tactus a touching, touch, fr. tangere, tactum, to touch: cf. F. tact. See Tangent.]


The sense of touch; feeling.

Did you suppose that I could not make myself sensible to tact as well as sight? Southey.

Now, sight is a very refined tact. J. Le Conte.

2. Mus.

The stroke in beating time.


Sensitive mental touch; peculiar skill or faculty; nice perception or discernment; ready power of appreciating and doing what is required by circumstances.

He had formed plans not inferior in grandeur and boldness to those of Richelieu, and had carried them into effect with a tact and wariness worthy of Mazarin. Macaulay.

A tact which surpassed the tact of her sex as much as the tact of her sex surpassed the tact of ours. Macaulay.


© Webster 1913.

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