A core overarching aim of Relational Frame Theory (RFT) research on language and cognition is the prediction and influence of human behavior with precision, scope, and depth. However, the conceptualization and delineation of empirical investigations of higher-order language and cognition from a relational framing theoretical standpoint is a challenging task that requires a high degree of abstract reasoning and creativity. To that end, we propose using symbolic notation as seen in early RFT experimental literature as a possible functional-analytical tool to aid in the articulation of hypotheses and design of such experiments. In this article, we provide examples of aspects of cognition previously identified in RFT literature and how they can be articulated rather more concisely using technical notation than in-text illustration. We then provide a brief demonstration of the utility of notation by offering examples of several novel experiments and hypotheses in notation format. In two tables, we provide a “key” for understanding the technical notation written herein, which other basic-science researchers may decide to draw on in future. To conclude, this article is intended to be a useful resource to those who wish to carry out basic RFT research on complex language and cognition with greater technical clarity, precision, and broad scope.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alonso-Álvarez, B., & Pérez-González, L. A. (2017). Contextual control over equivalence and nonequivalence explains apparent arbitrarily applicable relational responding in accordance with sameness and opposition. Learning & Behavior, 45, 228–242. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13480.017.0258-1.
Barnes-Holmes, D., Regan, D., Barnes-Holmes, Y., Commins, S., Walsh, D., Stewart, I., et al. (2005). Relating derived relations as a model of analogical reasoning: Reaction times and event-related potentials. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 84, 435–451.
Barnes-Holmes, Y., Hussey, I., McEnteggart, C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Foody, M. (2016). Scientific ambition: The relationship between relational frame theory and middle- level terms in acceptance and commitment therapy. In R. D. Zettle, S. C. Hayes, D. Barnes-Holmes, & A. Biglan (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of contextual behavioral science (pp. 365–382). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Barnes-Holmes, Y., Kavanagh, D., Barnes-Holmes, D., Finn, M., Harte, C., Leech, A., & McEnteggart. (2018). Review: Mastering the clinical conversation: Language as intervention by M. Villatte, J. L. Villatte, & S. C. Hayes. The psychological record. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40732-017-0229.
Binder, C., Haughton, E., & Bateman, B. (2002). Fluency: Achieving true mastery in the learning process. In Professional papers in special education (pp. 2–20). Charlottesville: University of Virginia Curry School of Special Education.
Blackledge, J. T., & Drake, C. E. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Empirical and theoretical considerations. In S. Dymond & B. Roche (Eds.), Advances in relational frame theory: Research and application (pp. 219–252). Oakland: New Harbinger.
Cassidy, S., Roche, B., Colbert, D., Stewart, I., & Grey, I. (2016). A relational frame skills training intervention to increase general intelligence and scholastic aptitude. Learning & Individual Differences, 47, 222–235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2016.03.001.
Cassidy, S., Roche, B., & Hayes, S. C. (2011). A relational frame training intervention to raise intelligence quotients: A pilot study. The Psychological Record, 61, 173–198.
Devany, J. M., Hayes, S. C., & Nelson, R. O. (1986). Equivalence class formation in language-able and language-disabled children. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 46, 243–257. 10.1901%2Fjeab.1986.46-243.
Dickins, D. W., Singh, K. D., Roberts, N., Burns, P., Downes, J. J., Jimmieson, P., & Bentall, R. P. (2001). An fMRI study of stimulus equivalence. NeuroReport, 12, 405–411.
Dymond, S., & Barnes, D. (1995). A transformation of self-discrimination response functions in accordance with the arbitrarily applicable relations of sameness, more-than, and less-than. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 64, 163–184.
Dymond, S., & Roche, B. (2013). Advances in relational frame theory: Research and application. Oakland: New Harbinger.
Dymond, S., Roche, B., & Bennett, M. (2013). Relational frame theory and experimental psychopathology. In S. Dymond & B. Roche (Eds.), Advances in relational frame theory & contextual behavioral science: Research and application (pp. 199–218). Oakland: New Harbinger.
Dymond, S., Roche, B., Forsyth, J. P., Whelan, R., & Rhoden, J. (2007). Transformation of avoidance response functions in accordance with same and opposite relational frames. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 88, 249–262. https://doi.org/10.1901/jeab.2007.88-249.
Garcia, A. M. (2015). A connectionist approach to functional-cognitive linguistics: Spanish pronominal clitics and verb endings in relational-network terms. Revista Signos. Estudios de Lingüística, 48, 197–222.
Guinther, P. M. (2018). Contextual influence over deriving another's false beliefs using a relational triangulation perspective taking protocol (RT-PTP-M2). Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 110, 500–521.
Guinther, P. M., & Dougher, M. J. (2015). The clinical relevance of stimulus equivalence and relational frame theory in influencing the behavior of verbally competent adults. Current Opinion in Psychology, 2, 21–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.01.015.
Halford, G. S., Wilson, W. H., & Phillips, S. (2010). Relational knowledge: The foundation of higher cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14, 497–505. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2010.08.005.
Hayes, J., & Stewart, I. (2016). Comparing the effects of derived relational training and computer coding on intellectual potential in school-age children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(3), 397–411. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjep.12114.
Hayes, S. C., & Barnes, D. (1997). Analyzing derived stimulus relations requires more than the concept of stimulus class. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 68, 235–270.
Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B. (Eds.). (2001). Relational frame theory: A post-Skinnerian account of human language and cognition. New York: Plenum Press.
Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Wilson, K. G. (2012). Contextual behavioral science: Creating a science more adequate to the challenge of the human condition. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 1, 1–16.
Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change. New York: Guilford Press.
Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2010). Mental models and human reasoning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 18243–28250.
Leisner, M., Bleris, L., Lohmueller, J., Xie, Z., & Benenson, Y. (2010). Rationally designed logic integration of regulatory signals in mammalian cells. Nature Nanotechnology, 5, 666–670.
Malott, R. W. (2003). Behavior analysis and linguistic productivity. Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 19, 11–18.
McLoughlin, S., & Stewart, I. (2017). Empirical advances in studying relational networks. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 6, 329–342. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcbs.2016.11.009.
McLoughlin, S., Tyndall, I., & Pereira, A. (2018). Piloting a brief relational operant training program: Analyses of response latencies and intelligence test performance. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/15021149.2018.1507087.
McTiernan, A., Holloway, J., Healy, O., & Hogan, M. (2015). A randomized controlled trial of the Morningside math facts curriculum on fluency, stability, endurance, and application outcomes. Journal of Behavioral Education, 25, 49–68.
Moran, L., Walsh, L., Stewart, I., McElwee, J., & Ming, S. (2015). Correlating derived relational responding with linguistic and cognitive ability in children with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 19, 32–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2014.12.015.
O’Hora, D., Barnes-Holmes, D., Roche, B., & Smeets, P. (2004). Derived relational networks as novel instructions: A possible model of generative verbal control. The Psychological Record, 54, 437–460.
O’Hora, D., Pelaez, M., Barnes-Holmes, D., Rae, G., Robinson, K., & Chaudhary, T. (2008). Temporal relations and intelligence: Correlating relational performance with performance on the WAIS-III. The Psychological Record, 58, 569–584.
Paternò, F., Mancini, C., & Meniconi, S. (1997). ConcurTaskTrees: A diagrammatic notation for specifying task models. In Human-computer interaction INTERACT’97 (pp. 362–369). New York: Springer.
Peltomäki, M., & Salakoski, T. (2004). Strict logical notation is not a part of the problem but a part of the solution for teaching high-school mathematics. Proceedings of Koli Calling, 116–120.
Perez, W. F., Fidalgo, A. P., Kovac, R., & Nico, Y. C. (2015). The transfer of Cfunc contextual control through equivalence relations. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 103, 511–523. https://doi.org/10.1002/jeab.150.
Quinones, J. L., & Hayes, S. C. (2014). Relational coherence in ambiguous and unambiguous relational networks. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 101, 76–93. https://doi.org/10.1002/jeab.67.
Ramey, D., Lydon, S., Healy, O., McCoy, A., Holloway, J., & Mulhern, T. (2016). A systematic review of the effectiveness of precision teaching for individuals with developmental disabilities. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 3, 179–195.
Sidman, M. (1971). Reading and auditory-visual equivalences. Journal of Speech & Hearing Research, 14, 5–13.
Sidman, M. (1994). Equivalence relations and behaviour: A research story. Boston: Authors Cooperative.
Slattery, B., & Stewart, I. (2014). Hierarchical classification as relational framing. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 101, 61–75.
Slattery, B., Stewart, I., & O’Hora, D. (2011). Testing for transitive class containment as a feature of hierarchical classification. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 96, 243–260. https://doi.org/10.1901/jeab.2011.96-243.
Steele, D. L., & Hayes, S. C. (1991). Stimulus equivalence and arbitrarily applicable relational responding. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 56, 519–555. https://doi.org/10.1901/jeab.1991.56-519.
Stewart, C., Stewart, I., & Hughes, S. (2016). A contextual behavioral approach to the study of (persecutory) delusions. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 5, 235–246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcbs.2016.09.002.
Stewart, I., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B. (2004). A functional-analytic model of analogy using the relational evaluation procedure. The Psychological Record, 54, 531–552.
Stewart, I., McElwee, J., & Ming, S. (2013). Language generativity, response generalization, and derived relational responding. Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 29, 137–155.
Törneke, N. (2010). Learning RFT: An introduction to relational frame theory and its clinical application. Oakland: New Harbinger.
Villatte, M., Villatte, J. L., & Hayes, S. C. (2015). Mastering the clinical conversation: Language as intervention. New York: Guilford Press.
Whelan, R., & Barnes-Holmes, D. (2004). The transformation of consequential functions in accordance with the relational frames of same and opposite. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 82(2), 177–195.
The study was not supported by any grant funding from any institution or organization.
Conflicts of Interest
On behalf of all the authors the corresponding author confirms that no author has a conflict of interest to declare.
Not applicable as not an empirical study paper.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
McLoughlin, S., Tyndall, I., Mulhern, T. et al. Technical Notation as a Tool for Basic Research in Relational Frame Theory. Psychol Rec 69, 437–444 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40732-019-00344-7
- Relational frame theory
- Basic research
- Future research