ACT/RFT Reader's Update (Fall, 2008)

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Science and Practice: ACT /RFT Reader's Update Fall, 2008

Welcome to ACT/RFT Reader's Update:

In our second issue we summarize 5 articles recently published in peer-reviewed journals. The references to full citations and whether they are available for download on the ACBS website is also included. Citations for the latest books, book chapters, and unpublished dissertations are listed at the end of the update. If you don't see your recently published article….hang on, we continue to work on future issues and have a fair number of articles that are being reviewed and summarized for our coming issues. However, if you are publishing or have recently published please make us aware by either sending us the reference or pdf. Thanks.

We hope you will find our e-mail updates of interest and value. If you have questions, please contact Robyn Walser, or, or Maggie Chartier at

Enjoy your read!

Our editors and reviewers/writers:

Robyn D. Walser, Ph.D.
Maggie Chartier, MPH, MS

Chad Drake, MA
Miguel Rodríguez Valverde, PhD
Ian Stewart, PhD
Christi Ulmer, PhD

This issue of Science and Practice: ACT/RFT Readers Update contains 5 summaries:


Acceptance and commitment training reduces prejudice and promotes diversity-oriented behaviors in college students

Despite increased efforts at promoting diversity in recent years, prejudice continues to result in diminished quality of life for ethnic, racial and religious minorities across numerous life domains. Interventions designed to reduce prejudice have been moderately successful with short-term improvements, but do not seem to promote sustained equitable attitudes and behavior. In fact, in some instances, the interventions actually result in an increased bias. ACT may be particularly applicable to prejudice due to its focus on intransigent and difficult cognitions. Luoma and Hayes compared a brief ACT Training protocol to an education-based prejudice awareness training intervention for reducing racial and ethnic prejudice in college students. Material was presented to students using a counterbalanced within-group design such that the impact of each approach could be evaluated independently. The outcome measure, developed for this study, consisted of items assessing the following: awareness of bias; acceptance and flexibility; thought control and defusion; and positive actions. Student responses suggest that the ACT training produced greater reductions in prejudice across most dimensions, and that only ACT training promoted greater intention to engage in diversity-oriented behaviors. Changes in these positive intentions were partially mediated by acceptance and flexibility, and defusion processes explained more variance in positive intention outcomes than acknowledgement of bias. The authors suggest that the combined findings of this study and a previous ACT-based study on prejudice lend preliminary support to an ACT-RFT based model of understanding and reducing prejudice. The findings are also consistent with the theory underlying acceptance-based approaches stating that it is the relationship with thought rather than the content of thought that matters. Limitations of the study include the use of an unvalidated outcome measure, the potential self-selection bias of students who choose to enroll in a class on the psychology of racial differences, the potential for bias of the interventionist in favor of ACT, and a short follow-up interval. Future studies are proposed using a more intensive intervention and assessing longer-term outcomes. Given the need for empirically supported approaches to address prejudice, the findings of the current study are promising. In terms of clinical application, the authors propose that similar processes are likely in play with regard to mental health stigma, and that cognitive processes that promote prejudice are themselves psychologically damaging.

Read the Article:

Lillis, J., & Hayes, S. C. (2007). Applying acceptance, mindfulness, and values to the reduction of prejudice: A pilot study. Behavior Modification, 31(4), 389-411.


ACT and CT for anxiety and depression, a randomized controlled effectiveness trial

For some period of time there has been discussion and even argumentation between those who hold true to cognitive models of intervention (e.g. Beckian) and acceptance models of intervention (e.g. Hayesian). Forman and colleagues take a closer look. They explain that Cognitive Therapy (CT) has a mixed record of success in producing theoretically-consistent mediation of treatment outcomes while Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has a relatively impressive, though preliminary record, of the same. Given that only a handful of studies have directly compared these treatments and that all contained methodological shortcomings the authors undertook that task of comparing each therapy's ability to produce mediation and positive outcomes among an outpatient sample of college students in a well-controlled trial. Services were provided by clinical psychology doctoral candidates working at a student counseling center. Outcome measures included self-reports of symptoms (BDI-II, BAI, OQ-45) and self-reports of quality of life (QOLI, SLS). Two mediational measures were administered (KIMS, AAQ). The study also included measures of treatment fidelity, therapist allegiance, and participant expectancies of treatment. Results showed that all measures were comparable between treatments, and that each treatment generated large effect sizes. Mediational analyses showed that the observing subscale of the KIMS more strongly (though nonsignificantly) predicted outcomes for CT, while the AAQ and the acting with awareness and acceptance subscales of the KIMS more strongly (and significantly) predicted outcomes for ACT. The authors reported that "changes in "observing" and "describing" one's experiences were more strongly associated with outcomes for those in the CT group relative to those in the ACT group, whereas experiential avoidance, acting with awareness, and acceptance were more strongly associated with outcomes for those in the ACT group" (p. 792). Although, the authors concluded that "these findings support the notion that CT and ACT are functionally distinct from one another" (p. 792), it was never explained why the capacity to observe and describe one's private experiences is a fundamental component of CT but not ACT.

Read the Article:

Forman, E. M., Herbert, J. D., Moitra, E., Yeomans, P. D., & Geller, P. A. (2007). A randomized controlled effectiveness trial of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Therapy for anxiety and depression. Behavior Modification, 31, 772-799.


How does multiple-exemplar training and naming establish derived equivalence in an infant?

Stimulus equivalence at its simplest can be described as follows. Imagine I train someone in the following two relations between physically different arbitrary stimuli: Pick stimulus B when you see stimulus A, and pick stimulus C when you see stimulus B. If given the opportunity, a verbally able human might subsequently go on to demonstrate further relations, without being trained to do so, including picking A when he sees B, and picking B when he sees C (i.e., reversing the trained relations, referred to as symmetry), picking C when he sees A (i.e., combining the trained relations, referred to as transitivity) and picking A when he sees C (a combination of symmetry and transitivity). This pattern of derived responses has been called stimulus equivalence, because it appears that, suddenly and unexpectedly and without being trained to do so, the person is treating a number of physically different stimuli as mutually substitutable for or equivalent to each other. There is growing interest in stimulus equivalence research as only verbally able subjects seem to be able to show this pattern readily, suggesting a link between equivalence and language. But what is the nature of this link? How are the two connected? The present paper discusses two theoretical approaches that claim to account for this link - Relational Frame Theory (e.g., Hayes et al., 2001) and Naming Theory (Horne & Lowe, 1996). More importantly, however, the paper reports a series of experiments involving training an infant in relational responding that provide important additional evidence pertaining to the debate between these approaches. More specifically, the results add to evidence in favour of the RFT account, while demonstrating a phenomenon that directly contradicts Naming Theory. This study is a significant empirical contribution for a number of reasons (i) It demonstrates the use of multiple exemplar training to establish generalized contextually controlled receptive mutual entailed relational responding; (ii) it provides the youngest empirical example of coordinate (sameness) combinatorial entailed relational responding (equivalence) ever recorded; and (iii) it provides extremely important evidence vis-a-vis the Naming Theory / RFT debate by providing empirical evidence that directly contradicts a core tenet of Naming Theory while being consistent with RFT.

Read the Article:

Luciano, C., Becerra, I. G., & Valverde, M. R. (2007). The role of multiple-exemplar training and naming in establishing derived equivalence in an infant. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 87(3), 349-365.


Can the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure be faked? First evidence says no.

The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) is a computer-based task for the assessment of implicit cognitions recently devised within the theoretical framework of RFT. It is a latency-based response measure that intends to assess the participants' existing verbal-relational networks (i.e. beliefs). It works by requiring participants to respond as quickly and accurately as possible across trials when presented with particular relations (among sample and target stimuli) that may be consistent or inconsistent with their beliefs (i.e. relational networks). The idea is that participants will be faster when required to respond to stimulus relations that are consistent (e.g. categorizing words like love or peace as pleasant, and words like vomit or death as unpleasant) than to stimulus relations that are inconsistent with their verbal histories (e.g. categorizing vomit or death as pleasant, and love or peace as unpleasant). This idea is supported by empirical evidence from several recent studies. As with other implicit measures, like the Implicit Association Test (IAT), one of the strengths of the IRAP is that it may be less sensitive than questionnaires and other explicit measures to assess deliberate attempts to conceal information about one's own socially sensitive attitudes. This study attempted to see to which extent this is the case (i.e. whether the IRAP can be faked). Three groups of participants underwent two consecutive exposures of the IRAP task with the same stimuli (the words pleasant and unpleasant as samples, the words similar and opposite as response options, one set of six pleasant target words, and one set of six unpleasant target words). Between both exposures, one group was informed about how the IRAP works. Another group received the same information and was told to fake the IRAP, without a specific strategy to do so. The third group received the same information and were also provided with a strategy, namely slowing down on consistent trials and going fast on inconsistent trials. Results showed no evidence of faking in any condition. All groups showed an IRAP effect in the second exposure regardless of the instructions or strategies received. According to a post-task questionnaire, only two participants in the third group reported using the specific strategy they had received. All in all, participants found it difficult to fake the IRAP, even if provided with specific strategies. This contrasts with previous findings with the IAT, which can be successfully faked when explicitly told how to do so. This observed resistance to deliberate attempts to fake performance renders the IRAP a solid procedure for the assessment of implicit cognitions.

Read the Article:

McKenna, I., Barnes-Holmes, D., Barnes-Holmes, Y., & Stewart, I. (2007). Testing the Fake-ability of the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP): The First Study. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 7, 253-268. (in English)


What can RFT add to the study of pain?

The current study focuses on an RFT interpretation of the way that pain takes part in complex behavioural episodes for humans. It is a theoretical/conceptual study that reviews functional-contextual approaches to the study of private events specifically related to pain and with a special emphasis in recent research in verbal behaviour, behaviour-behaviour relations, and transformation of psychological functions. The review is divided into four parts. The first summarizes the philosophical assumptions of functional-contextualism and its implications for the study of pain (e.g. the extent to which explanations of pain allow for effective action as the criterion against which these explanations should be tested). The second focuses on the classical behaviour-analytic point of view, where pain experiences have been conceptualized as private events that exert discriminative control over subsequent behaviours (e.g. abuse of pain-killers, inactivity, social isolation, etc.). This discriminative function (behaviour-behaviour relation) is the product of specific histories of reinforcement along the individual's development, in direct-contingency terms. This view is illustrated with the presentation of the contributions of Schoenfeld and, more specifically, of Fordyce. RFT is proposed as a more comprehensive framework for the behaviour ral study of pain, a framework where verbal (derived) histories can be included as part of the explanation. In line with this, pain-related clinical problems are conceptualized as a form of experiential avoidance disorder, where it is the verbal functions of pain, rather than pain itself, that limit the individual's life (i.e. the consideration of pain as a literal barrier for engaging in valued actions). This is described in the third part of the article. Finally, the last part of the article presents a general overview of ACT and describes its implications for the treatment of pain-related problems.

For more information, read the original article in Spanish:

Gutiérrez Martínez, O., & Luciano Soriano, C. (2006). Un studio del dolor en el marco de la conducta verbal. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 6, 169-188. [A study of pain in the framework of verbal behavior: from the contributions of W. E. Fordyce to Relational Frame Theory (RFT)]

(for correspondence and reprints):


Ciarrochi, J. V., & Bailey, A. (2008). A CBT practitioner's guide to ACT. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.



Barthold, C., & Hoffner, C. (2007). Factors affecting the generalization of 'wh-' question answering by children with autism. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 68(4-A): 1403.


Hayes, S. (2007). Hello Darkness. Psychotherapy Networker, Sept/Oct. 46-52.

Hummelen, J. W., & Rokx, T. A. J. J. (2007). Individual-context interaction as a guide in the treatment of personality disorders. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 71(1): 42-55.

Muran, J. C. (2007) Commentary: Language, Self, and Diversity. In S. C. Hayes (Ed.), Dialogues on difference: Studies of diversity in the therapeutic relationship ) pp. 275-279. Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

A reminder:

** If you are a graduate student working on an ACT/RFT study and would like to have us include your dissertation or thesis citation in this update, please send us an email backchannel.

**If you have published an editorial you would like us to include that citation, please send us an email back channel.