Expanding Relational Frame Theory: Relational Density and Implications for Practice and Culture Series with Dr. Jordan Belisle, Dr. Caleb Stanley, Dr. Dana Paliliunas, & Dr. Ashley Payne

Dr. Jordan Belisle, Dr. Caleb Stanley, Dr. Dana Paliliunas, & Dr. Ashely Payne

Connections Behavior Planning and Intervention is excited to welcome Dr. Jordan Belisle, Dr. Caleb Stanley, Dr. Dana Paliliunas and Dr. Ashley Payne, for a webinar series for Behavior Analysts! This series will focus on the topic of RFT and Relational Density Theory for clinical practice and cultural/social application. The content will be presented in three sessions, two presenters at each session. See detailed descriptions of each session below.


Series Abstract

How do we make sense of the world around us through language, problem solving, and reasoning? How is that two people who observe the same event not only interpret the event differently, but act in highly variable and individualized ways?

This series will explore Relational Density Theory (RDT; Belisle & Dixon, 2020) as an expanded functional analysis of human language and cognition and emerging research in several areas. RDT expands on relational frame theory by emphasizing the vast interconnectedness of relational behavior and history.

In the first presentation, we will explore the quantitative models of Relational Resistance and Relational Gravity, as well as basic research demonstrating both phenomena in the lab. In the second presentation, we will dive into how RDT models can help to inform behavior analytic practice within relational training (e.g., PEAK, verbal behavior training) and Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACTr, VBSM, AIM). In the third presentation, we will critically examine how relational framing emerges from within cultural systems of privilege and oppression with implications for supporting diversity and social justice, within and outside of the field of behavior analysis. Taken together, this series is a comprehensive summery of the work on RDT to date and future directions, and content is delivered by theory developers and leading researchers in this space.

About the Presenters

Dr. Jordan Belisle, BCBA-D, is an associate professor at Missouri State University and founder of HUB Research Lab (Humans Understanding Behavior, graduate research lab) and co-developer of the LOTUS Project (applied engagement and dissemination), BEAR Lab (undergraduate research development laboratory), and DELTA Project (de-affiliated doctoral student support program). His research focuses on applying advanced models of human language and cognition in various applied settings, from supporting neurodivergent learners and developing mental health technologies (clinical behavior analysis), to social and climate justice initiatives. He has authored 2 books, Research Methods for the Practicing Behavior Analyst (Belisle, Stanley, & Dixon, 2021) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Behavior Analysts (Dixon, Hayes, & Belisle, 2023). Jordan has also published over 80 peer-reviewed research articles and book chapters and co-authored over 200 presentations. This work represents the combined efforts of multiple student research assistants and international collaboration networks.

Dr. Caleb Stanley is a behavior analyst teaching in the Applied Behavior Analysis program at Utah Valley University. His primary area of expertise is concerned with understanding factors related to the development of complex language and cognition, specifically with individuals with autism.

With nearly a decade of clinical experience with individuals on the autism spectrum, Stanley has published more than 30 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and co-authored several chapters in his area of expertise. He graduated with a master’s and doctoral degrees in behavior analysis and therapy from Southern Illinois University.

Dr. Dana Paliliunas, BCBA-D, is an assistant professor in the psychology department at Missouri State University. Previously, she received her Ph.D. in rehabilitation with a specialization in behavior analysis and therapy from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Prior to her doctorate studies, Dr. Paliliunas obtained her teaching license in special education and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), working in schools as a teacher and behavior specialist.

In general, her research interests include behavior therapeutic approaches to psychological and social-emotional challenges and the relationship between language processes and psychological well-being. Her applied research focuses on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for prevention and intervention among various populations and settings, including children, adolescents, and university students, as well as parents and care providers. Dr. Paliliunas is a co-author of the AIM: A Behavior Analytic Curriculum for Social-emotional Development in Children, which incorporates mindfulness, ACT, and behavior management techniques to target social-emotional development among children.

Dr. Ashley Payne, is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Missouri State University, specializing in Mental Health and Behavior Science. Her research interests include Hip-Hop Based Education (HHBE); Culture and Identity Development of Adolescent Black Youth; Culture, Personal Epistemology, and Education; and Hip-Hop and Black Feminist Theory applied to the education of Black Female Youth.


Session 1: Relational Density in the Lab: Examining Resistance and Coherence, Disinformation and False Beliefs, and Other Translations with Dr. Jordan Belisle, BCBA and Dr. Caleb Stanley.

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Session Abstract:

There is a considerable gap between RFT research in the lab and the relational behavior that clinicians are observing in sessions and that people are observing in their world. RDT attempts to bridge the gap by exploring higher-order, self-organizing properties of relational framing from a theoretical quantitative lens that borrows from RFT and behavior momentum theory.

First, we will discuss emerging research on relational resistance, or the likelihood that behavior will change along with changes in the external world. Relational behavior that exhibits greater density (strength of relations) and volume (number of relations) (mass = volume * density) appears to be more resistant to changes in context. Second, we will discuss research on relational coherence by adopting gravity as a metaphor, where relational networks with greater mass are not only more likely to acquire coherent class members with very little training, but may also merge with entire networks to create complex networks (Force = Rm1 * Rm2 / Rdis). Throughout the presentation, we will discuss how these models allow for a functional analysis of relational framing and translational work underway to explore why people believe weird things (misinformation and disinformation) and implications for analyzing global issues such as climate change.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the concept of Relational Resistance
  2. Describe the concept of Relational Coherence
  3. Discuss how framing contributes to false beliefs and global issues

Session 2: Relational Density in the Clinic: Functionally Analyzing Complex Frames within ACT and Language Training with Dr. Dana Paliliunas, BCBA, and Dr. Jordan Belisle, BCBA.

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Session Abstract:

Relational training technologies are becoming center-stage in the field of behavior analysis as evidence mounts that relational responding is not only an empirical fact, but underlies our greatest successes and our greatest struggles as human beings. Yet, a functional analysis that directly evaluates relational responding in context has been slow to emerge and can be achieved through an RDT framework.

In this presentation, we will explore three major areas where RDT is being applied and review how to conduct a functional analysis of relational framing using a multidimensional scaling procedure. First, we will examine changes in relational framing in response to PEAK intervention (Dixon, 2014-2016), a language and cognitive training program for children with language-learning differences. RDT allows for an analysis of how relational frames are reacting to instruction and can be probed when teaching new skills. Second, we will explore how relational framing patterns link into the concept of psychological flexibility using the SELF and the SELF-Y to guide ACT-based interventions, such as Values-Based Self-Management with adults and Accept-Identify-Move) with children. Finally, we will discuss applying this analysis to examine workplace climate and utilizing a Prosocial intervention framework to support values-based and affirming practice.

This presentation is designed as a starting point to fostering highly adaptive, flexible, and appetitive networks to engineer affirming and values-based contexts for clients and those who serve them.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe how multidimensional scaling provides a functional analysis of relational frames
  2. Discuss applications of RDT to evaluating relational training
  3. Describe applications of RDT in developing and evaluating ACT and Prosocial interventions for clients and staff

Session 3: Relational Density in the World: Critically Evaluating Resistance and Coherence in the Emergence and Maintenance of Culture with Dr. Ashley Payne and Dr. Jordan Belisle, BCBA.

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Session Abstract:

Radical behaviorism and functional contextualism both emerged from within philosophical pragmatism, that itself emerged as an on-going solution to systems of oppression and injustice. Science itself, including the field of behavior analysis, is viewed through a constructionist lens wherein theories are developed or constructed to solve applied challenges. Those challenges that are resolved initially trend toward those experienced by majority cultures that hold historical and present social power and influence, leaving solutions largely unexplored for groups most impacted, including members of the behavior analysis community and those we serve. Moreover, solutions that may appear workable for a majority group can directly disadvantage minority groups, perpetuating cycles of violence and oppression.

In this presentation, we will review critical theories (Critical Race Theory, Feminist Theory) and their link to behavior analytic concepts like relational frame theory and metacontingencies. We will also discuss how RDT models allow for a functional analysis of racist and sexist beliefs that perpetuate disadvantage for members of BIPOC communities, LGBTQIA+ communities, and intersectional identities, as well as the contingencies that maintain relational biases. Finally, we will discuss stigma against autistic communities through this same critical lens, emphasizing work in disability studies. In all cases, we propose provisional solutions and areas for further research, where behavior analysts have the opportunity to contribute meaningfully towards engineering cultural humility in our practice and our world.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe critical theories, such as Critical Race Theory and Feminist Theory, through a pragmatic and constructionist lens
  2. Describe how biased relational framing is nested within oppressive systems and privileged contingencies
  3. Apply the framework to developing solutions to challenges faced by members of BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, neurodivergent, and intersectional communities

CEU’s included, and Cost to Attend:

  • 2.0 Learning BACB CEU’s per session (included with purchase)
  • 6.0 Learning BACB CEU’s for the series (included with purchase)
  • $39.99 to attend a single session, or $109.99 for the full series
    • Includes access to the recording and presentation materials, and CEU’s.

For questions, challenges with registration, or any other needed information, please contact Dusty, Director of Continuing Education and ACE Coordinator for CBPI, LLC, at continuingeducation@connections-behavior.com.

Connections Behavior Planning & Intervention, LLC, is a BACB-Approved ACE Provider (Provider # OP-17-2781). The BACB does not directly sponsor or endorse this event, its speakers, or its content.

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