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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #115
Assessing and Training Complex Behaviour (Classification and Analogy) Using Relational Frame Theory
Saturday, May 23, 2020
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 1, Salon I
Area: VRB/EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: John D. McElwee (Pennsylvania VB3)

Relational Frame Theory (RFT) argues that language and cognition may be explained in terms of derived (arbitrarily applicable) relational responding (also known as relational framing). Furthermore, RFT research has by now provided substantial evidence in favour of this thesis not least by modelling a number of arguably important areas of linguistic-cognitive functioning based on controlled laboratory demonstrations of this phenomenon. The present symposium includes data from a number of relatively recent RFT-based studies that illustrate this approach. Study 1 focused on training class inclusion responding as a key repertoire of classification, using a RFT approach in which class inclusion involves containment and comparison relations and their combination. Study 2 assessed acquisition of relational framing in young children using a novel RFT-based procedure, with a particular focus on the acquisition of analogical responding, conceptualised within RFT as the relating of derived relations. Study 3 involved a number of experiments to train analogical responding (i.e., relating derived relations) in young children using a multiple baseline across participants design.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Analogy, Classification, Language, RFT

Training Class Inclusion Responding in Individuals With Autism

(Basic Research)
SIRI MING (Private Practice), Patrycja Zagrabska (National University of Ireland, Galway), Teresa Mulhern (Carlow College, Ireland), Ian T. Stewart (National University of Ireland, Galway), John D. McElwee (Pennsylvania VB3)

Class inclusion requires responding to an item simultaneously as a member of both a class and a more inclusive class containing that class. For example, a child might be presented with pictures of several dogs and several cats, with more dogs than cats and asked, “Are there more dogs or more animals?” The correct answer (‘animals’) requires responding to a dog as simultaneously both a member of the class ‘dogs’ as well as of the superordinate class ‘animals’. Ming et al. (2018) trained class inclusion in typically developing children and individuals with autism using a Relational Frame Theory approach in which class inclusion requires containment and comparison relations and their combination. Participants received multiple exemplar training using a non-concurrent multiple baseline design in which class containment relations were represented by placing pictures within nested transparent boxes. More recent work has facilitated improved control by using a concurrent design and recording all stimulus categories in both baseline and training, thus enabling a more unambiguous demonstration of generalization and maintenance. It also showed contingent feedback alone as insufficient to allow successful performance but that an intervention involving non-arbitrary guidance but less intensive than in Ming et al. could facilitate the required repertoire.


Assessing Relational Responding in Young Children Using a Novel Relational Frame Therory-Based Relational Evaluation Procedure-Based Format

(Basic Research)
ELLE KIRSTEN (Fit Learning & National University of Ireland, Galway), Ian T. Stewart (National University of Ireland, Galway)

Relational Frame Theory (RFT) sees operant acquisition of various patterns of relational framing (frames) as key to linguistic and cognitive development and it has explored the emergence of a range of psychological phenomena (e.g., analogy, perspective-taking) in these terms. One potentially important advance for RFT research is to develop a better idea of the normative development of relational framing in childhood. This was one of the aims of the present study, which sought to measure relational responding of various types, and at various levels of complexity in young children across a range of ages. A second aim of the study was to focus in particular on analogy, or the relating of relations, as one particularly important pattern of relational responding. The present study examined a range of frames including coordination, comparison, opposition, temporality, and hierarchy at a number of different levels of complexity (non-arbitrary relating, non-arbitrary relating of relations, arbitrarily applicable relating and arbitrarily applicable relating of relations) in young children ranging in age from 3 to 7. Performance overall as well as under various subheadings was correlated with both age and intellectual ability. Outcomes and their implications are discussed.

Training Analogical Responding in Young Children Across Several Multiple Baseline Design Studies
(Basic Research)
IAN T. STEWART (National University of Ireland, Galway), Elle Kirsten (Fit Learning & National University of Ireland, Galway)
Abstract: Analogical (A:B::C:D) relational responding is a key skill in the development of verbal and intellectual repertoires. This paper will 1) briefly review a Relational Frame Theory (RFT) based assessment of analogical relations, and, 2) discuss RFT-based training procedures used to train arbitrary analogical relations in typically developing children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The RFT-based instrument used in this study allows assessment and training of (i) non-arbitrary (physical) relations (ii) non-arbitrary analogy (relating non-arbitrary relations) (iii) arbitrarily applicable relational responding (relational framing) and (iv) arbitrarily applicable analogical relational responding (relational framing relational frames themselves). A series of multiple baseline design studies used this instrument to test and train arbitrary analogical relations in nine 5-year old typically developing children, and three 10-14-year old children with ASD. All participants generated analogical responses during novel, generalization, and maintenance probes. Data from testing, training, and generalization trials will be presented and discussed, as well as the impact training had on the verbal repertoires of children with ASD.



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