Technical Notation as a Tool for Basic Research in Relational Frame Theory

S. McLoughlin, I. Tyndall, T. Mulhern, S. Ashcroft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A core overarching aim of Relational Frame Theory (RFT) research on language and cognition is the prediction and influence of human behavior with precision, scope, and depth. However, the conceptualization and delineation of empirical investigations of higher-order language and cognition from a relational framing theoretical standpoint is a challenging task that requires a high degree of abstract reasoning and creativity. To that end, we propose using symbolic notation as seen in early RFT experimental literature as a possible functional-analytical tool to aid in the articulation of hypotheses and design of such experiments. In this article, we provide examples of aspects of cognition previously identified in RFT literature and how they can be articulated rather more concisely using technical notation than in-text illustration. We then provide a brief demonstration of the utility of notation by offering examples of several novel experiments and hypotheses in notation format. In two tables, we provide a “key” for understanding the technical notation written herein, which other basic-science researchers may decide to draw on in future. To conclude, this article is intended to be a useful resource to those who wish to carry out basic RFT research on complex language and cognition with greater technical clarity, precision, and broad scope.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-444
JournalPsychological Record
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2019


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