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Congratulations, 2022-2023 Research Development Grant Recipients!

Congratulations, 2022-2023 Research Development Grant Recipients!

Congratulations to Manuel Gutierrez Chavez, University of Utah; Huiyuan LI, PhD, RN, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Jordan Belisle, PhD, Missouri State University; and Conor McCloskey, University College Dublin for being awarded the 2022 - 2023 ACBS Research Development Grants.

The ACBS Research Development Grant provides financial support for research that advances the field of Contextual Behavioral Science (CBS). The purpose of this grant is to provide financial support for high quality, innovative original research projects. Up to four Research Development Grants of up to $5,000 (US dollars) each are awarded per grant cycle.

Click here to learn more about the ACBS Research Development Grant program.

Inclusive Science Grant - Manuel Gutierrez Chavez, B.S., Department of Psychology, University of Utah; Anu Asnaani, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Utah

Atención Plena: Cena Conscientemente con la Familia

Lay Summary

Hispanics/Latinos (H/L) in Utah experience higher rates of obesity, a risk factor for heart disease, when compared to the rest of the state’s population. A variety of aspects of one’s life can influence obesity, including factors such as culture, family status, mental health, and lifestyle choices. Perceived stress has been associated with emotional eating (eating after experiencing a negative feeling) in H/L communities but culturally relevant interventions for perceived stress and emotional eating are missing. Our previous work has indicated that the local H/L community has great interest in this kind of cross-cutting (physical/mental health) intervention and they have further indicated that stress related to daily living should be targeted with a focus on healthy coping strategies that includes their loved ones. Using a community-informed approach, this study will conduct three distinct focus groups consisting of mothers, fathers, and young adults (16–22-year-olds) to gather information related to eating patterns, coping strategies, and how these two relate to each other at both the individual and family level. The questions of these focus groups will determine current use of mindful eating principles and current coping strategies to be able to understand this community’s relevant strengths. This information will inform the adaptation of a mindfulness-based intervention that will be piloted with a group of ten community members to determine its feasibility and acceptability in their cultural and familial contexts. Specifically, this study has three stages: (1) focus groups will highlight relevant strengths and intervention targets within family units, (2) utilization of that information to co-create a mindfulness-based intervention with our community partner (the Hispanic Health Care Task Force), and (3) piloting the intervention to determine its acceptability and feasibility in this H/L community. The planned outcomes include a culturally relevant intervention that can be piloted with a larger sample to determine effectiveness.  


LAMIC Grant - Huiyuan LI, PhD, RN, The Nethersole School of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China; Cho Lee WONG, PhD, RN, The Nethersole School of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for fatigue interference in patients with advanced lung cancer and caregiver burden

Lay Summary

Fatigue is the most common and distressing symptom among patients with advanced lung cancer patients and interferes with physical and psychological health. As fatigue interferes with patient functioning, family caregivers often report feeling burdened by increasing responsibilities and being distressed about patients’ forthcoming death. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has shown promising effects on improving functioning and quality of life in cancer patients. However, evidence-based psychooncological interventions (i.e. ACT) jointly addressing advanced cancer patient distress and caregiver burden are lacking. In addition, both patients and caregivers experience extensive unmet supportive care needs during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and even in the post-pandemic era. Especially for patients living in remote and rural areas in China, geographical constraints severely affect the quality of life of patients and caregivers due to lacking timely psychological support. Furthermore, virtual reality technology is gradually gaining recognition in alleviating anxiety and depression in diverse populations, but few studies have applied the technology to advanced cancer patients. Thus, a pilot randomised controlled trial will evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of an online-based dyadic ACT intervention involving 360-degree virtual mindfulness for patients with advanced lung cancer and caregivers in rural areas.

A sample of 40 patient-caregiver dyads will be recruited and randomly assigned to either the online 6-week ACT intervention or the education control group. Fatigue interference for patients with advanced lung cancer and caregiver burden will be evaluated at baseline and post-intervention. A convenience sample of 10 dyads will be recruited for focus group interviews to explore dyads’ experience in ACT intervention. We will also explore the mediation role of psychological flexibility and mindfulness in the ACT process. Results will lay the groundwork for further applications of online ACT for dyads in remote areas in China, realising equal and diverse supportive palliative care.

General Grant - Jordan Belisle, PhD, Missouri State University; Rocco Catrone, PhD, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Defusing Relational Frames Underlying Autism Stigma in a Representative Sample: A Translational Investigation

Lay Summary

We are seeking to evaluate how relational framing maintains negative stigmatic biases against autistic people and to test a defusion program to weaken biases and promote flexibility. Community perception of disabilities, including of autistic communities, can have direct and negative effects on the quality of life for individuals. Conversely, positive perceptions tend to lead to greater access to resources and acceptance of individuals. There have been few studies that directly assess how these perceptions of stigma form, limiting the creation of interventions to reduce stigma and to promote flexible responding towards autistic individuals. Intervention research in contextual behavioral science has also been slow to integrate basic and translational models directly within intervention. Creating more efficient community-based programs and curating environments of acceptance and flexibility can help foster success and wellbeing for members of the autistic community.

Relational frame theory describes behavioral processes that may underlie social biases. This study will apply concepts from relational frame theory and extensions to explore ableism quantitatively in a large representative sample recruited through crowdsourcing marketplaces. Visual and statistical analyses will allow for detection of negative biases held towards autistic individuals. In a pilot randomized control trial design, participants will be assigned to a fusion (control) or defusion (experimental) group, where the defusion exercise will provide counter-narratives designed to weaken commonly held and erroneous beliefs held about autistic individuals. This evaluation is a direct application of relational frame theory applied to an issue of immense social importance to inform neurodiversity inclusion and justice initiatives. Supporting neurodiversity in all of its forms is critical to fostering inclusive communities and developing a context where all people can thrive. This research also has the potential to strengthen the relationship between basic / translational and applied research in contextual behavioral science while supporting core values of this community. 

General Grant - Conor McCloskey, PhD student from University College Dublin; Louise McHugh, PhD, University College Dublin

Mixed Signals: Rule-Based Insensitivity Through Competing Sources of Reinforcement

Lay Summary

This project develops a new way to experimentally test rule-following, which is a key concept in Contextual Behavioral Science (CBS). Behavior controlled by rules is more rigid and resistant to healthy change, when compared to behaviors that are developed through trial-and error/direct experience (contingency-shaped behavior). There are two main types of rules that this project will explore, pliance, which refers to rules based on social pressures such as “eat all your vegetables or I will not give you any ice cream”, and tracking, which are rules based on natural consequences, such as the rule “eat all your vegetables and you will grow big and strong”. Pliance is theorized to produce increased rigid behavior relative to tracking, although both forms of rule following can be harmful to our mental wellbeing. Rule-based insensitivity is a key concept within CBS and in related clinical interventions such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), but despite the importance of this concept, it is under-researched. This has led to imprecisions within the theory underlying ACT, limiting the effectiveness of ACT and other psychotherapeutic approaches. This research project will test a newly developed method of studying rule-based insensitivity, which introduces an innovative way of measuring rigid rule-following. This method involves directly reinforcing rule-following itself, rather than offering extraneous reinforcement. Preliminary data from this new approach has shown that it produces behavioral responses that are extremely reliable and more consistent with conceptualizations of pliance and tracking, when compared to past research methodologies. This project is consistent with the ACBS Task Force Report, which called for more basic, high precision lab research, and the project has the potential to help CBS researchers and practitioners to better understand the rule-based insensitivity effect and thus improve clinical interventions.