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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #157
CE Offered: BACB
If Flexibility is Emitted in a Forest...: Issues with Defining and Observing Flexibility
Sunday, May 25, 2014
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
W176a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Desiree Carnathan (University of Mississippi)
Discussant: Ann Rost (Missouri State University)
CE Instructor: Ann Rost, Ph.D.

Psychological flexibility is enhanced sensitivity to both immediate and temporally extended contingencies. It involves the development of a repertoire that allows for persistence or change to match extended behavioral patterns with verbally constructed valued life directions. The assessment of psychological flexibility has been limited to self-report methods that inquire about behaviors isolated from changing contexts. This symposium addresses measurement issues pertaining to psychological flexibility, and offers a variety of alternatives. The first paper discusses methodological issues in comparing cognitive flexibility and psychological flexibility. The second paper offers Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) as a method of sampling a variety of self-reported responses repeatedly within a specified time frame. The third paper presents information regarding the development of a computer-based behavioral measure grounded in Relational Frame Theory. The fourth paper introduces an alternative computer-based task as a potential marker of psychological inflexibility- the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP). The symposium will close with a discussion of overarching issues regarding the measurement of psychological flexibility in light of the preceding presentations.

Keyword(s): methodological issues, psychological flexibility

Cognitive Flexibility and Psychological Flexibility: Methodological Issues

RAWYA AL-JABARI (University of North Texas), Amy Murrell (University of North Texas), Teresa Hulsey (University of North Texas), Melissa L. Connally (University of North Texas), Nina Laurenzo (University of North Texas)

To our knowledge, no publications explore the relationship between psychological and cognitive flexibility. While differences exist, both constructs require individuals connect to contingencies in the present moment to appropriately adapt behavior, given the context. Therefore, it was hypothesized that scores on the Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire (AFQ; Greco, Murrell, & Coyne, 2005) - a measure of the inverse of psychological flexibility - would significantly negatively correlate with measures of cognitive flexibility. More specifically, flexible problem solving abilities were assessed with the Functional Fixedness Task (Dunker, 1945), Trail Making Test Part B (TMT; Reitan, & Wolfson, 1993), Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST; Berg, 1948) and the Cognitive Flexibility Inventory (Dennis & Vander Wal, 2010). Non-significant correlations were found between the AFQ and measures of cognitive flexibility (correlations ranged from r = -0.191 to 0.184, ns). Lack of significance may have resulted from the relationship occurring in a non-theorized way, or it may be due to methodological issues. For example, some cognitive flexibility measures had less than ideal internal consistency in our sample. Additionally, comparing one self-report measure to a combination of behavioral and self-report formats, may not have captured variance efficiently. Such explanations will be discussed, along with future research suggestions.


Flexibility in Context: Exploring the Use of Ecological Momentary Assessment of Psychological Flexibility

RYAN ALBARADO (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Gina Quebedeaux Boullion (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Ashlyne Mullen (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Psychological flexibility seems to be fundamental to psychological health and quality of life. Psychological flexibility mediates the response to treatment in multiple contexts moderating the relationship between distress and problematic overt behaviors in multiple domains. Yet assessment of psychological flexibility has been limited to a single questionnaire--the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire (AAQ)--and adaptations of the AAQ to different forms of psychological distress (e.g., smoking cravings, body image, obesity stigma, hearing voices). This is problematic for several reasons, including the difficulty respondents have in tacting their "overall" behavior over a week. Despite adequate psychometric estimates of reliability, significant variation in responses may actually be attributable to the immediate context in which the responding takes place. Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) takes advantage of this by taking repeated self reports of multiple behaviors over the period of time in which the researcher is interested. Data from three studies will be briefly reviewed as examples of how researchers might apply EMA to measure psychological flexibility. Practical advice on incorporating EMA into research designs, collecting EMA data and analyzing data will be offered.

Seeing is Believing: Towards a Behavioral Measure of Psychological Flexibility
EMMY LEBLEU (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Gina Quebedeaux Boullion (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Jessica Auzenne (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emmie Hebert (University of Mississippi), Shelley Greene (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Michael Bordieri (University of Mississippi Medical Center), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Abstract: Contributing to the development of effective behavioral patterns is almost inarguably the primary goal of clinical behavior analysis. Recent research suggests that increasing psychological flexibility, acting in accordance with “values” even in the presence of uncomfortable experiences, may support healthy behavior patterns in many difficult situations. For this reason the assessment and development of psychological flexibility should be a concern of clinical behavior analysts. The question then becomes, how does one assess psychological flexibility? To date, the only way to determine the status of a person’s psychological flexibility is with self-report measures. However, it is widely accepted that self-report measures are limited in their ability to always accurately reflect behavior of an individual. Further, psychological flexibility being based on the function of private events, rather than their occurrence or form, makes self-report data from individuals without function discrimination training even less accurate. This paper will explore a developing computer-based-behavioral measure of psychological flexibility based on Relational Frame Theory (RFT) along with data as to its current validity and utility.

Use of Word-level IRAP Analyses to Identify Relative Flexibility & Inflexibility with Specific Verbal Stimuli

Kate Kellum (The University of Mississippi), Kerry C. Whiteman (The University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (The University of Mississippi), CALEB STANLEY (The University of Mississippi)

The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) has most often been used to examine differences between the performances of groups with a particular set of stimuli (i.e., an IRAP) and between specific trial-types. The present study examines the possibility of using analyses of each word in the IRAP with an individual to identify relatively strong verbal repertoires that may be clinically relevant for that individual or for his/her community. These relatively strong verbal repertoires may be seen as areas of psychological inflexibility. This paper examines multiple methods for examining IRAP outputs at the word level and discusses methods of obtaining convergent validity for this use of the IRAP. Undergraduate students who participated for course credit showed marked variability in IRAP performance across words within trial types. The discussion focuses on the potential to predict and develop interventions for specific domains for individuals where high levels of bias, rigidity, or fusion are present.




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