Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #209
CE Offered: BACB
Investigating Relational Repertoires in Respect to Psychological Flexibility: A Collection of IRAP Studies
Sunday, May 24, 2015
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
Texas Ballroom Salon C (Grand Hyatt)
Area: CBM/EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Chad Drake (Southern Illinois University)
Discussant: Kate Kellum (University of Mississippi)
CE Instructor: Kate Kellum, Ph.D.

Psychological flexibility is a broadly applicable term that provides focus and coherence to a collection of behaviors theorized to underlie psychological health. Although grounded in matters of clinical relevance, the repertoires of interest may be considered in respect to non-clinical topics as well, particularly topics such as stigma and social categorization. However, to date psychological flexibility has mostly been measured via self-report. The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) is a relatively new, computerized, response latency measure developed out of a behavior analytic laboratory. The IRAP measures an interlocking network of derived relational repertoires. It has been demonstrated to be sensitive to a variety of attitudinal biases, including and perhaps especially in regard to stigma and social categorization. This symposium will present a collection of IRAP studies. Three assess social stigma and involve multiple measurement strategies and some novel stimulus configurations. A fourth study attempts to directly assess acceptance/avoidance repertoires. All studies provide some new data and suggest some new directions for the future of IRAP research on psychological flexibility.

Keyword(s): acceptance, defusion, implicit cognition, psychological flexibility

Flexibility, Empathy, and Implicit Mental Health Stigma

SUNNI PRIMEAUX (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Chad Drake (Southern Illinois University)

Mental health stigma, while common, leads to harmful consequences. Research has been inconsistent in determining the best method of stigma reduction, and even when reduction is observed with a particular method, it is typically short-lived. The current study uses the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure, a measure of bias in relational repertoires, to assess mental health stigma in a more behavioral manner as opposed to traditional, self-report methods. Participants of varying class-levels from a local university were given two vignettes, one depicting a person experiencing symptoms without having an official diagnosis, and another experiencing similar symptoms and having a diagnosis. Implicit stigma toward each individual was measured using the IRAP. We also examine social distance, empathy and psychological flexibility to assess how mental health stigma varies based on an individuals level of each. Data suggest that mental health bias is a function of education as well as an individuals willingness to interact with stigmatized individuals. Participants who were more willing to interact with a hypothetical diagnosed individual showed less of an implicit bias toward stigmatized individuals compared to participants who were less willing to interact with stigmatized individuals. Implications for creating more effective education interventions will be discussed.

Exploring Atypical Trial-Type Configurations with a Race IRAP
KAIL H. SEYMOUR (Southern Illinois University), Anke Lehnert (Southern Illinois University), Chad Drake (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: Understanding cognitive biases may allow better prediction of and methods to deal with a variety of issues of social concern, including racism. The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) is a response latency task that has shown utility in respect to the measure of racially stigmatizing attitudes. In this study, racial categories (i.e., black people; white people) were presented in conjunction with positive and negative evaluative words (e.g., smart, stupid) via a standard IRAP (SIRAP) configuration. Participants were asked to choose between two response options (similar or different) for each race-adjective pair by way of a given rule. During the orthogonal IRAP (OIRAP) trials, different stimulus pairs (i.e., black people-white people; positive evaluations-negative evaluations) were assessed. Self-report measures were also administered to assess the individuals’ explicit attitudes about the IRAP stimuli and racial issues. Participants from an introductory psychology class research pool were quasi-randomly assigned to one of four condition orders. Preliminary data indicates that SIRAP procedures may prime stereotypical race attitudes in a subsequent OIRAP, whereas OIRAP procedures may decrease bias in the subsequent SIRAP trials. These differences may be interpreted in respect to cognitive defusion, a construct relevant to psychological flexibility.
Generating Cognitive Defusion Using a Stimulus Alteration Strategy with the IRAP
TRAVIS SAIN (Southern Illinois University), Anke Lehnert (Southern Illinois University), Chad Drake (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: Research on psychotherapy processes is a formidable undertaking, in part because complex interventions are difficult to bring into a basic laboratory setting. Cognitive interventions in particular provide a challenging research design puzzle. The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) may offer one means of modifying cognitive repertoires in a manner that would be consistent with an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy component known as defusion. The present study gathered data on 120 participants at a mid-western university (mean age of 19; 48% white, 36% black). Three IRAPs were administered to a control group and an experimental group. Each IRAP examined response latencies to trials containing the samples “Abraham Lincoln” and “Adolf Hitler”. The text in the second IRAP for the experimental group was altered in a manner coherent with cognitive defusion. The results show differences in two of the four relational repertoires assessed by the IRAP. This paradigm may provide a basis for examining a variety of factors that could influence the efficacy of cognitive defusion interventions.
Implicit Repertoires and Psychological Flexibility: A Fresh Look at Old Data
CHAD DRAKE (Southern Illinois University), Anke Lehnert (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: Many computerized measures of implicit cognition offer a variety of windows into verbal repertoires. The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) may offer an advantageous methodology compared to mainstream measures such as the Implicit Associations Test. Although these measures are commonly used to assess social attitudes and personal preferences, a small but growing collection of IRAP studies have addressed, directly or indirectly, processes theorized to embody psychological flexibility, the treatment target of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Given the findings presented in the current symposium, some previous studies will be reconsidered here, along with a reanalysis of unpublished IRAP data regarding experiential avoidance. This data was provided by a collection of freshman psychology students attending a university in the southern United States. The IRAP was configured to assess willingness and avoidance in respect to anxiety-related words. The results provide additional support for the viability of the IRAP as a measure of psychological flexibility processes, but with unexpected relationships with self-report measures. Consideration of these data and previous studies suggest some new directions and considerations in future efforts to assess flexibility with implicit measures.



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