Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Human valuing is a topic of study in many disciplines concerned with the behavior of humans in terms of its relationship to individual as well as group behavior. Many disciplines provide a theory of how values effect behavior, however a behavior analytic approach may demonstrate utility in terms of both understanding the formation of values as well as procedures that incorporate valuing into interventions for common psychological problems. Relational Frame Theory (RFT), a psychological account of human language and cognition, which has its foundation in behavior analysis, may provide an empirically-valid account of the formation of values and the mechanisms though which it effects behavior. Language processes including hierarchical, or categorical, relational responding, the transformation of consequential stimulus function, and rule-governed behavior may contribute to the act of human valuing. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a clinical derivative of RFT, incorporates values as a central component of treatment. This series of three studies sought to add to the empirical understanding of human valuing through two basic and one translational study. Study 1 examined the transformation of consequential stimulus functions in accordance with hierarchical networks, completed in a multiple baseline design. Results of this study suggest that, given sufficient strength of derived relations, the transformation was demonstrated by five of six participants. Study 2 evaluated the motivative effect of stimuli in a hierarchical relational network, completed in a multiple baseline design. The results suggest that in the presence of directly trained stimuli the motivative augmentals did not influence responding for four of four participants, however they did in a novel context for three of three participants. Study 3 sought to measure the effect of an arbitrary symbol related to a values-focused hierarchy as a motivative augmental for academic performance with a sample of undergraduate university students in a classroom setting. Together, these studies reflect a number of the languages processes necessary if an RFT-focused conceptualization of human valuing is accurate.
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