Listener Responding

Listener responding (LR) is essentially the skill of following directions. This is a RECEPTIVE communication skill. Typically, this is the person that is responding to a Mand. When the listener receives a message from the speaker and they respond in the desired way, they have successfully completed the behavior of listener responding. This begins with basic instruction, typically 1-step, such as “touch __” and “give me __”. Then it builds up to simple 2-step and 3-step, then complex 2-step and 3-step, and instructions that include prepositions, adjectives, and pronouns.


Having inadequacies with listener responding skills can lead to an increase in maladaptive behaviors. These can include behaviors triggered by not receiving desired reinforcers. For example, if one is unable to completely follow instructions independently, the speaker may not give them the desired consequence, resulting in maladaptive behaviors from continued deprivation and/or denied access to tangibles (items or activities).

Skill Acquisition

Listener responding skills combine following directions and making correct choices. In order to build up listener responding skills, you begin by reinforcing their current achievable level, to decrease its deficit and promote proficiency. When developing the skill using intervention methods, you start with simple instruction and move onto increasingly complex instruction. This includes 2-step and 3-step instructions, instructions with prepositions and pronouns, and using arrays of stimuli that go from neat small arrays (2-3 item choices), messy small arrays, neat large arrays (5+ items), and messy large arrays.

Array TypeLR Skills Built
SmallTeaches the learner to differentiate between available options when learning to complete tasks, which may typically interfere with task completion.
LargeTeaches the learner to increase differentiating abilities to a more natural sized group.
NeatTeaches the learner to identity a stimulus that requires making a correct choice.
MessyTeaches the learner to scan from a more naturally assorted array of options that require both differentiation and complex scanning skills.