International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 24 Num. 2 - June 2024


Empirical Analysis of Derived Hierarchical Responding

Volume 24 Num. 2 - June 2024 - Pages 193-219


Villarroel, Jorge , Luciano, Carmen , Ruiz, Francisco J


Volume 24, #2- June 1, 2024

In hierarchical responding, classes of stimuli (e.g., granite or marble) are grouped into broader classes (e.g., rocks), and these broader classes can be further grouped into even broader classes (e.g., minerals). Relational Frame Theory (RFT) conceptualizes a hierarchical network as a derived relational response in which specific stimuli (is part of, belongs to, ...) called relational cues are learned through multiple examples with non-arbitrary functions among stimuli, which are subsequently applied to relate stimuli arbitrarily. This experiment analyzes the circumstances under which derived hierarchical responses might be brought under experimental control. A total of 9 adults took part in the experiment. Participants were familiarized with the tasks and experimental procedure in the first phase. In the second phase, four relational cues were trained: Sameness (Sa), Distinction (Di), Inclusion-Sameness (IncSa), and Inclusion-Distinction (IncDi). In the third phase, four arbitrary networks were trained using the four cues, one per cue, respectively, and functions were assigned to different stimuli of the four networks. Finally, derived relations and functions were tested for each network. Six out of nine participants correctly responded to all tests, two partially, and one failed. The study extends the previous research regarding derived hierarchical responding in terms of the complexity of the derived patterns shown in the networks. Implications and limitations are discussed.

How to cite this paper:
Villarroel J, Luciano C, & Ruiz FJ (2024). Empirical Analysis of Derived Hierarchical Responding. International Journal of Psychology & Psychological Therapy, 24, 2, 193-219

Key words:

Relational Frame Theory, Hierarchical Responding, Derived Relational responding, RFT

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