Relational Frame Theory (RFT)

What is Relational Frame Theory (RFT)

Relational Frame Theory (RFT) is a modern behaviour analytic functional theory of human language and cognition. RFT posits that most forms of intelligent behaviour rely on derived relational responding (DRR). DRR is the skill of relating objects to each other in accordance with a small family of mathematical relationships (e.g. symmetry, equivalence, opposition, more-than, less-than).

Equivalence is the most basic of the relations that can be trained. From an RFT perspective, THIS is the essence of language. Train ANY relationship between ANY range of objects and NEW relations emerge which weren’t directly trained. This process happens via Multiple Exemplar Training.

Relations are taught by caregivers across multiple exemplars in normal language interaction (whether the caregiver realizes it or not). By giving a child multiple exemplars, a caregiver is teaching a child skills that become more and more abstracted over time. From the RFT perspective – all language for humans involves being able to use words in this abstracted way – that is use and respond to words whose meaning has been derived through equivalence. Thus, according to RFT – language and deriving relations involve the same process. This is important for many areas of life, but from our perspective, it’s incredibly important for language and cognition.

Dr Sarah Cassidy has been involved in research for the past 20 years on designing behavioural interventions to improve intellectual skills with Dr Bryan Roche and together they have empirically demonstrated that there is a correlation between derived relation responding skills, language and human intelligence. They have also published the first empirical study to demonstrate that using MET (Multiple Exemplar Training Intervention) called SMART (strengthening mental abilities with relational training, for more see, IQ scores can be increased by as much as 30 points on standardised tests of intelligence.

Finally, RFT is the foundation upon which ACT therapy was built as we believe that in therapy, language IS intervention.

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