I'm looking for something that means the kind of obedience you'd see from a bird in a Skinner cage. It's not "brainwashed", because I don't care about the person changing his beliefs.

Here's the context:

"You will look at me when I speak to you, boy."

He slowly looked up at her, obedient but not ______"

I'm plugging it with "tractable" for now, but I don't think it's quite what I'm after. I'm trying to get across that he's not compelled to obey, he just finds it expedient in this context.

  • 1
    – Drew
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 2:43
  • 1
    .....Submissive. Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 4:50
  • @aparente001 Not at all what I was looking for, but a much better fit for the sentence than what I had in my head!
    – JETM
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 23:06
  • He was obedient, but not trained
    – iMerchant
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 9:29

3 Answers 3



inclined or willing to submit to orders or wishes of others or showing such inclination; "submissive servants"; "a submissive reply"; "replacing troublemakers with more submissive people"


If you insist on a word, please say so. Else, could a phrase be acceptable?

If you think any belief, or change in belief has anything to do with ‘rapid obedience’ please explain what and how…

If you think anyone or anything being ‘tractable’ or ‘expedient’ has to do with ‘rapid obedience’ please explain…

Respect to Drew and ‘reflexive’ doesn’t mean ‘reflex’. If it did, I suggest physiology has nothing to do with grammar or semantics… ‘Obedience’ involves cognition in a way Pavlovian reflex, ‘rapid’ or otherwise does not. Similarly neither ‘submissiveness’ nor ‘training’ could really be relevant.

I suggest there is nothing remotely like any word meaning anything like ‘rapid obedience’ but given that any kind of qualification of ‘obedience’ makes the question less about the outcome and more about the manner of achieving that outcome, ‘alacrity’ would fit much better than anything else.




Subservientness: This word is not commonly used and may be found in enlarged dictionary,

Commonly used are Subservience and Subservient that refer to "compliant," "obedient," "submissive," or having the qualities of a servant. Something that's subservient has been made useful, or put into the service of, something else.

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