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

Previous Page


Symposium #384
CE Offered: BACB
What the Flex: Exploring Behavioral Conceptualizations of Psychological Flexibility and Implications for Assessment
Monday, May 25, 2015
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
Texas Ballroom Salon C (Grand Hyatt)
Area: CBM; Domain: Theory
Chair: Skylar Fusilier (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Discussant: Michael Bordieri (University of Mississippi Medical Center)
CE Instructor: Michael Bordieri, Ph.D.

Psychological flexibility has been posited as a fundamental aspect of psychological well being and as a mechanism of change in clinical behavior analysis. A mid-level term, psychological flexibility is often defined in the clinical context as involving open, ongoing awareness to private events in such a way as to decrease avoidance and facilitate effective, values-based behavior. This symposium includes four papers, each linking mid-level conceptualizations of psychological flexibility with basic behavioral principles. The first paper considers a number of behavioral concepts that seem fundamental to psychological flexibility. The second paper explores how those trained in psychological flexibility tact their experience. The third paper examines psychological flexibility and inflexibility in terms of appetitive and aversive control, and introduces a measure of body image flexibility based on this conceptualization. The last study explores qualities of derived relational responding as indicative of flexibility and inflexibility investigates the IRAP as a tool for predicting inflexibility in certain domains of living.

Keyword(s): acceptance, assessment, mindfulness, Psychological flexibility
Bringing Back the Basics: Relating Basic Behavioral Processes to the Psychological Flexibility Model
GRAYSON BUTCHER (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Abstract: Among contextual behavioral scientists, psychological flexibility is proposed to be a unified model of human functioning (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 2012). The aim of this inductive mid-level model is to simultaneously summarize mechanisms of psychopathology, psychological health, and psychological interventions. Psychological flexibility is described as the ability to engage in valued behaviors, even in the presence of unwelcome thoughts, emotions, and experiences, and is typically conceptualized as comprising six coherent processes (being present, cognitive defusion, experiential acceptance, perspective taking, values, and committed action). This paper will review the roots of the psychological flexibility model from early radical behaviorism to Relational Frame Theory, relating basic principles to the behavioral phenomena being described with this mid-level term, psychological flexibility. Amongst the literature reviewed will be delay discounting, aversive vs. appetitive control, contingency adduction, the variation and selection of behaviors, rule governed behavior, and discriminant generalization. Implications for behavioral assessment of psychological flexibility and for psychological flexibility-based interventions will be discussed.
Modeling Body Image Flexibility Using the Concepts of Transfer of Function and Competing Sources of Control
NOLAN WILLIAMS (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Gina Quebedeaux Boullion (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Jessica Auzenne (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emmie Hebert (University of Mississippi), Shelley Greene (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Michael Bordieri (University of Mississippi Medical Center), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Abstract: Body image can be painful and cause disruption in valued life domains. This disruption might be most likely when the body experience is painful and avoided (i.e., when body image is aversive). Over time, an increasing number of stimuli acquire aversive body image functions, making life more and more difficult. Body image flexibility involves remaining in contact with the full range of experience and serving chosen values, even when painful experiences might help to mitigate this dysfunction. This multi-part project centers around an effort to create a behavioral measure of body image flexibility by using RFT to model 1) the process by which stimuli come to acquire aversive body image functions, 2) the process by which stimuli come to acquire values functions, and 3) varying levels of control that body image or values functions might have over the repertoire at any one moment. Various ways of quantifying participant performance on this task will be discussed in conjunction with different ways of conceptualizing body image flexibility.

Use Your Words: An Examination of Student Writing in Response to Experiential Learning Exercises Targeting Psychological Flexibility

EMILY ALLEN (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emmy LeBleu (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Ryan Albarado (University of Louisiana Lafayette), Bronwyn Frederick (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Jada Horton (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Alaina Kiefner (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Lauren Griffin (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

College students are often faced with a number of transitions across important domains of life. For many students, academic demands, living conditions, financial status, primary relationships and social activities undergo repeated changes during the course of their college education. Psychology of Adjustment is a course designed to teach non-majors fundamental concepts of psychological health. As currently taught, the course includes primarily experiential interventions in which students learn the concepts of psychological adjustment by practicing psychological flexibility in and out of class. Informal student evaluations suggest that these methods not only ensure intellectual grasp of the concepts but also improve students psychological adjustment more broadly. The current qualitative study examines the content of students journal assignments in order to identify ways in which the class impacts psychological flexibility and college adjustment. Preliminary thematic analysis of 157 students journal assignments has revealed the following themes: the identification and clarification of values, observable changes in valued domains of life, the realization that everybody struggles, the awareness of psychological inflexibility and its consequences, willingness to experience painful thoughts and feelings, and gratitude for newfound presence in everyday experience. Implications for future research and course development will be discussed.

This Is How We Do: Use of Word-level IRAP Analyses to Identify Relative Flexibility & Inflexibility with Specific Verbal Stimuli
EMMIE HEBERT (University of Mississippi), Kate Kellum (University of Mississippi), Kerry C. Whiteman (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi)
Abstract: The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) has most often been used to examine differences between the performances of groups of people with a particular set of stimuli and between specific trial-types. The present study is a continuation of a previous study that examines the possibility of using analyses of individual words in the IRAP to identify relatively strong verbal repertoires. These repertoires may be clinically relevant for the participating individual or for his/her community. They may also be seen as areas of psychological inflexibility. This paper examines multiple methods for examining IRAP outputs at the word level. Additionally, the workability of stimuli (e.g. using “not” with a stimulus versus a new opposing word) will also be discussed. Undergraduate students who participated for course credit showed marked variability in IRAP performance across words within trial types. The discussion focuses on the potential to predict and develop interventions for specific domains for individuals where high levels of bias, rigidity, or fusion are present.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh