Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dixon, Mark


The purpose of the educational system is to provide an appropriate general education which serves to increase the cognitive and intellectual abilities of those enrolled. Over the past several decades, the number of individuals that receive an education from the public school system has increased significantly, along with an increase in equal access regardless of disability or socioeconomic status. Additionally, the amount of resources afforded to the public education system has increased as well. Despite the increased access and amount of resources afforded to the educational system, a corresponding increase in academic performance and cognitive or intellectual ability has not been observed. Therefore, an empirically validated method for increasing intellectual and cognitive performance is necessary. Relational Frame Theory (RFT), a contemporary behavior-analytic account to complex human language and cognition, offers a behavior-oriented interpretation of intelligence. Such an interpretation of intelligence may allow for the development of interventions designed to strengthen behaviors conventionally regarded as intelligent. This series of three studies aims to add to the understanding of human intelligence and cognition by examining the relationship between derived relational responding and intelligence, and evaluating the effect a set of interventions derived from RFT have on intelligence, academic performance and impulsivity. Study 1 examined the relationship between derived relational responding and intelligence. Experimenters administered the PEAK-Transformation Pre-assessment, which provides a measure of relational responding, and the WISC-V, which provides a measure of IQ, and conducted a Pearson correlation between the two measures. The results from this study showed a strong, positive correlation (r = .659, p < .05) between total scores for the PEAK-T Pre-assessment and the WISC-V, which suggest relationship between derived relational responding and intelligence. Additional correlations were conducted between each subtest of the PEAK-T Pre-assessment and the WISC-V. The results showed a moderate correlation between the PEAK-T Receptive subtest and the WISC-V (r = .568, p < .05) and a strong, positive correlation between the PEAK-T Expressive subtest and the WISC-V (r = .666, p < .05). Finally, correlations were conducted with each relational frame within the PEAK-T assessment and the WISC-V, which showed significant correlations between each relational frame and IQ scores. Study 2 sought to evaluate the effect relational training procedures had on intelligence, academic performance, and impulsivity using a Multiple Baseline research design. Experimenters adminsitered pre-training and post-training probes for each of the dependent measures to determine the extent to which relational training procedures influenced scores on each measure. The results showed that the intervention was effective in increasing score on the PEAK-T-PA and the WISC-V. The average increase in PEAK-T-PA scores was 32.4, and the average increase in WISC-V scores was 6.6. CBM scores also showed a improvement, however, the difference between pre-training and post-training was minimal. The average change score for CBM assessments was 8.27. Finally, MAI scores on the BART showed no change in the post-training phase compared to that of the pre-training phase. The average change score in MAI was -2.29, which indicates a decrease in impulsivity. Although a decrease was observed, there was overlap between scores in the post-training phase and pre-training phase, which suggests no effect from the intervention. Overall, the data show that relational training was effective in increasing derived relational responding behavior and intelligence, and had some effect on academic performance. Additionally, the data show the intervention had no effect on impulsivity. Taken together, the results add to a growing body of literature supporting the use of RFT-based interventions to strengthen intelligence and other relevant behaviors, however, further research is necessary to identify the specific variables underying these behaviors.




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