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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #50
CE Offered: BACB
Using Advances in Relational Frame Theory to Guide Analyses of Rule-Following, Prejudice, and Political Polarisation
Saturday, May 25, 2024
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center, 200 Level, 201 AB
Area: EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Ramon Marin (Universidade Federal de São Carlos, Brazil)
Discussant: Julian C. Leslie (Ulster University)
CE Instructor: Julian C. Leslie, Ph.D.

RFT can be traced back to a 1984 conference presentation on rule-governed behavior. The study of rule-governed behavior in RFT has tended to be overshadowed by the study of relational frames. However, adequate analyses of rule-governed behavior and related complex phenomena, such as prejudice and political polarisation, arguably require the study of increasingly complex relational networks. A more intense focus in this regard has begun to emerge in recent years. This work has been underpinned, to some extent, by the emergence of a hyper-dimensional, multi-level (HDML) framework for conceptualising research in RFT generally. Specifically, the HDML has encouraged analyses of increasingly complex relational networks along four dimensions, including coherence and complexity. The four papers in this symposium will consider some of this work. Specifically, the four papers will consider (1) the impact of relational coherence vs incoherence in establishing rule-following for speakers from different experimentally established groups; (2) attempts to explore the impact of relative degrees of relational coherence on rule-following and speaker preferences; (3) recent experimental analyses of prejudice as involving transformations of functions through complex hierarchical relational networks; (4) how recently offered concepts within RFT may help advance conceptual analyses of complex social behaviors relevant to political polarisation.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Political polarisation, Prejudice, RFT, Rule-governed behavior
Target Audience:

A basic background in behaviour analysis is assumed

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) summarize relatively recent developments in RFT; (2) articulate some ways in which recent developments have led to advances in the study of rule-governed behavior and speaker preference; (3) articulate of how recent developments in RFT may inform empirical and conceptual analyses in the study of prejudice and political polarisation.
Exploring the Effects of Coherence on Rule-Following by Different Speakers: A Gamified Study
(Basic Research)
ALCEU REGAÇO (Universidade Federal de São Carlos ), Colin Harte (Universidade Federal de São Carlos), Julio C. De Rose (Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos), Dermot Barnes-Holmes (Ulster University)
Abstract: Rule-following has long been recognized as an important area of research in behavior analysis. Several socially relevant behaviors are associated with rule-following, including those related to various psychological disorders and compliance with social rules (e.g., traffic regulations, mask usage). An important variable in this context is the coherence of the learned relations, particularly when deciding whether or not to follow a rule provided by a speaker when the rule is coherent or incoherent with previous relations. This study aimed to investigate the effects of coherence on rule-following when presented by two different speakers within a gamified procedure. The Miner Troubles software was used and adapted for this experiment. Participants were trained and tested on two three-member classes composed of different characters (A1B1C1 and A2B2C2), followed by training and testing on three three-member classes of abstract stimuli. Subsequently, the A1 character was presented with coherent abstract relations, while the A2 character was presented with incoherent abstract relations. The following phase assessed participant rule-following when instructions were provided by the C1 and C2 characters. Data thus far indicate that participants successfully learn and derive relations using the Miner Troubles software. Implications for the study of rule-following and speaker preference will be discussed.

Speaker Relational Coherence and Rule-Following Behaviors: A Replication and Further Parametric Analyses

(Basic Research)
JESÚS ALONSO-VEGA (Universidad Europea de Madrid), Colin Harte (Universidade Federal de São Carlos ), Dermot Barnes-Holmes (Ulster University)

Previous experiments have revealed that different levels of relational coherence can affect rule-following behaviors. In addition, relational coherence may be under the control of conditional discriminations. For example, different speakers may generate different rule-following responses in the same individual with the same rule by manipulating the levels of relational coherence associated with the speaker. This presentation aims to address this research topic by presenting two experiments. Experiment 1 attempts to replicate previous experimental results exploring the impact of speakers established as relatively coherent (100%, 50%, 0% coherent) on participant rule-following. Experiment 2 is designed to perform a parametric analysis of different levels of relational coherence (90%, 80%, 70%, and 60%) in three different speakers and assess how participants’ speaker preference is affected. Overall, the initial results have been replicated, and the parametrical analyses involved in Experiment 2 have so far indicated that variability in rule-following increases as relational coherence decreases. The implications of these findings for developing a more detailed perspective of the variables that affect rule-following are considered, as are some next steps for the analysis of this complex human behavior.


Transformation of Functions in Hierarchical Networks: New Perspectives on the Study of Prejudice

(Basic Research)
Joao de Almeida (São Paulo State University), TAHCITA MIZAEL (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil), Carolina Coury Silveira de Almeida (Inside ABA), Julio C. De Rose (Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos)

Prejudice often leads to regrettable social effects, such as segregation and mistreatment. Derived verbal events underlie this phenomenon, regulating our interactions in the social environment and establishing functions to stimuli without a history of direct learning. A notable gap exists in the experimental study of more complex derived stimulus relations investigating racial bias. The present study investigated if hierarchical relations could affect biased responses. Twelve undergraduate students were trained to respond according to two contextual cues: “includes” and “belongs to.” These cues were used to form three hierarchical levels (top, middle, and bottom). Then, negative or positive functions were established, pairing adjectives to one of the middle-level category labels. The effects of the functions directly paired were inquired for all arbitrarily derived hierarchical levels, characters, and extra non-arbitrary related stimuli, checking for generalization of the responses. In the first experiment, five participants responded according to hierarchical relations, showing transitive and asymmetrical class containment and unilateral property induction. In a second experiment, with a broader testing phase, all participants responded according to hierarchical relations. Additionally, further undesirable effects of prejudice were observed on generalization based on physical traits or color.


Can Recent Developments in Relational Frame Theory (RFT) Advance Analyses of Political Polarization?

JULIO C. DE ROSE (Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos), Colin Harte (Universidade Federal de São Carlos ), Cesar Antonio Alves da Rocha (Universidade de Sao Paulo)

There is a growing concern about political polarization in current societies. De Rose and Rocha (in press) suggested that RFT may provide useful elements to analyze the phenomenon of polarization. Political positions may be related in accordance with different patterns of relational responding, such as difference, hierarchy, comparison, or opposition. When positions are related in frames of opposition, transformation of functions result in highly polarized affective functions of the opposing opinions and attitudes, so that if one has positive valence the other will necessarily have negative valence. Recent developments in RFT may contribute to advancing this analysis, taking into account the orienting, evoking, and motivating functions involved in any given act of relating. As such, negative evoking functions may impair the mere contact with the arguments of opposed positions, and thus contribute to confirmation bias and motivated reasoning, to the point that political discussions and search for consensus becomes impossible. This presentation will elaborate on how current RFT developments may lead to refinements in the analysis of political polarization based on frames of opposition as derived relational networks and their differential functional properties.




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