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The On-Going Search for Perspective-Taking IRAPs: Exploring the Potential of the Natural Language-IRAP


Under a Relational Frame Theory (RFT) framework, researchers have investigated the role of deictic relational responding (perspective-taking) in the analysis of self in relation to others, place, and time. The aim of the current research was to develop IRAPs that targeted deictic relational responding with regard to the mental states of self and others. This was pursued in a series of experiments that employed a novel version of the IRAP, known as the Natural Language-IRAP (NL-IRAP). The use of the NL-IRAP allowed for the presentation of relatively complex statements that required participants to infer the thoughts or beliefs of others on a trial-by-trial basis within the IRAP. Across a sequence of six experiments, a “self-focused IRAP” required participants to respond to both positive and negative statements about themselves, whereas an “other-focused IRAP” required participants to respond to similar statements about others. Experiments 1 and 2 investigated perspective-taking with regard to an unspecified other. Experiments 3–6 investigated perspective-taking with regard to a specified other, with the specified relationship between self and other manipulated across experiments. The results of Experiments 1 and 2 indicated that the other-focused IRAP produced overall bias scores that were significantly stronger than responding to the self-focused IRAP. It is interesting that nonsignificant differences were recorded across Experiments 3–6 when other was specified. The findings obtained across the six studies highlight potentially important limitations in the use of the NL-IRAP as a measure of perspective-taking.

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  1. 1.

    Throughout this article, we have adopted the strategy of not correcting for multiple tests of statistical significance, but instead we report actual p values. However, we also report if the values remain significant following correction for multiple tests.

  2. 2.

    As noted above, this difference across the trial types was not expected and thus any analysis or discussion of this finding must remain entirely post-hoc. We decided to employ both regular t-tests and Bayesian paired t-tests, one for each IRAP, because when the data were collapsed across all six experiments the Ns were relatively large (total N = 209) and thus the likelihood of obtaining significant p values increases dramatically. The results for both tests were significant with extremely strong evidence from the Bayes analyses: self-focused IRAP (Positive EventNegative Reaction; M = .185, SD = 0.345, Negative EventPositive Reaction, M = .049, SD = .293, t(208) = 5.202, p < .001, 95% CI [.084, .187], BF1 = 43939); other-focused IRAP (Positive EventNegative Reaction; M = .231, SD = 0.341, Negative EventPositive Reaction, M = .074, SD = .329, t(208) = 5.747, p < .001, 95% CI [.103, .210], BF1 = 578829).


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This research was conducted with funding from the XXX.

Author information

Correspondence to Deirdre Kavanagh.

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Conflict of Interest

Deirdre Kavanagh declares that she has no conflict of interest. Adeline Roelandt declares that she has no conflict of interest. Lisa Van Raemdonck declares that she has no conflict of interest. Yvonne Barnes-Holmes declares that she has no conflict of interest. Dermot Barnes-Holmes declares he has no conflict of interest. Ciara McEnteggart declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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All procedures in the current study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee, and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants.

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The data for the current manuscript was collected, and prepared with the support of the FWO Type I Odysseus Programme at Ghent University, Belgium. We are very grateful to the reviewers for their thorough and constructive commentaries.


Appendix A

Table 10. Experiment 1: Descriptive statistics for questionnaires

Appendix B

Table 11. Experiment 2: Descriptive statistics for questionnaires

Appendix C

Table 12. Experiment 3: Descriptive statistics for questionnaires

Appendix D

Table 13. Experiment 4: Descriptive statistics for questionnaires

Appendix E

Table 14. Experiment 5: Descriptive statistics for questionnaires

Appendix F

Table 15. Experiment 6: Descriptive statistics for questionnaires

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Kavanagh, D., Roelandt, A., Van Raemdonck, L. et al. The On-Going Search for Perspective-Taking IRAPs: Exploring the Potential of the Natural Language-IRAP. Psychol Rec 69, 291–314 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40732-019-00333-w

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  • Relational Frame Theory (RFT)
  • Natural-Language IRAP
  • Deictic
  • Perspective-taking