Basic Properties of Coherence: Testing a Core Assumption of Relational Frame Theory
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Relational frame theory contains a foundational assumption that coherence (i.e., making sense) is reinforcing for verbally competent humans. That is, it is assumed that humans relate ambiguous stimuli together because they have an extensive learning history where doing so resulted in both effective environmental action and socially mediated reinforcement (e.g., praise, positive attention).
This investigation tested this core assumption of relational frame theory by analyzing response patterns to ambiguous stimuli in a matching-to-sample task (Study 1) and by assessing whether participants displayed a preference toward coherent contexts in a concurrent chains preparation (Study 2).
The majority of participants responded to ambiguous stimuli in ways that were internally consistent and congruent with their previous learning histories in the absence of any programmed contingencies. Many participants also displayed a preference toward contexts where coherent responding was possible, and there was a trend toward switching away in preference when it became increasingly costly to access the coherent context.
The major theoretical contributions of these findings are discussed.
KeywordsRelational frame theory Derived stimulus relations Matching to sample Concurrent chains Rule-governed behavior
Compliance with Ethical Standards
There are no funding sources to disclose for this study.
Conflict of Interest
Michael J. Bordieri declares that he has no conflict of interest. Karen Kate Kellum declares that she has no conflict of interest. Kelly G. Wilson declares that he has no conflict of interest. Kerry C. Whiteman declares that she has no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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