Friday, 4 October 2013

A couple of new publications to share

Wow, where has the time gone? In particular, what's happened to summer?!

It's Autumn and I'm already busy with the start of semester, grant and paper writing, and welcoming new students (PhD and UG) to the lab. So I just wanted to update the blog and share details of two recently published studies.

The first study is from a BIAL Foundation project and was published in Computers in Human Behavior. It's on conditioned suppression, which is a behavioural model of anxiety where a previously conditioned aversive cue (CS+) interupts or supresses appetitive, approach-oriented operant behaviour. We received funding to develop a virtual reality task with which to investigate conditioned suppression in humans. And the results are very promising! Here's the abstract of the study:

Virtual environments (VEs) provide an inexpensive way of conducting ecologically valid psychological research. The present study used a VE to demonstrate conditioned suppression, a behavioral model of anxiety, in a first-person perspective video game. During operant training, participants learned to shoot crates to find gold bars and thus score points in the game. Next, during Pavlovian conditioning, a colored light (i.e., conditioned stimulus: CS+) was followed by a white noise unconditioned stimulus (US) while a different colored light (CS ) was not paired with the US. Probe trials in a final testing phase were then used to assess suppression. We found significant suppression of accurate responding (shots hitting the designated targets) during the presence of the CS+ relative to the CS , both in terms of total hits and hits as a proportion of total shots. Importantly, this effect emerged despite the overall level of operant responding being undiminished during the CS+. Our findings are consistent with related studies examining human behavior in real environments, and demonstrate the potential of VEs in combination with a modestly aversive CS to allow a detailed behavioral profile of anxiety to emerge.

Greville, W. J., Newton, P. M., Roche, B., & Dymond, S. (2013). Conditioned suppression in a virtual environment. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 552-558.

We currently have another paper under submission and another, multi-experiment paper in the works, so watch this space!

The other study is due out in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology and was conducted with people screened for spider fear and divided into high vs. low groups. Both groups were given the same symbolic generalization of avoidance task and each performed differently. Basically, the high spider fearful individuals showed greater behavioural avoidance and lower cognitive expectancy, whereas the opposite was the case for the low spider fearful people.

This could mean that, for someone with a fear of spiders, the world is a place where spiders could, potentially, be found, and that their avoidance behaviour modulates expectancies of spiders. Much, much more to be done on this important topic! Anyway, here's the abstract:

Overgeneralization of fear and threat-avoidance represents a formidable barrier to successful clinical treatment of anxiety disorders. While stimulus generalization along quantifiable physical dimensions has been studied extensively, less consideration has been given to symbolic generalization, in which stimuli are indirectly and arbitrarily related. The present study examined whether the magnitude and extent of symbolic generalization of threat-avoidance and threat-beliefs differed between spider-phobic and non-phobic individuals. Initially, participants learned two sets of stimulus equivalence relations (A1 = B1 = C1; A2 = B2 = C2). Next, one cue (B1) was established as a conditioned stimulus (CS +; threat) that signalled onset of spider images and prompted avoidance, and another cue (B2) was established as a CS– (safety cue) that signalled the absence of such images. Subsequent testing showed that phobics compared to non-phobics exhibited greater symbolic generalization of threat avoidance to threat cues A1 and C1 (indirect CS+ threat cues related via symmetry and equivalence, respectively), while all individuals showed non-avoidance to indirect safety cues A2 and C2. The enhanced symbolic generalization of threat-beliefs and avoidance behaviour observed in spider phobics warrants further investigation.
Dymond, S., Schlund, M. W., Roche, B., & Whelan, R. (in press). The spread of fear: Symbolic generalization mediates graded threat-avoidance in specific phobia. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. DOI:10.1080/17470218.2013.800124

Monday, 1 April 2013

Advances in Relational Frame Theory: Research and Application

Bryan Roche and I have an edited volume, Advances in Relational Frame Theory: Research and Application, due out on May 1st, and published by New Harbinger.

For ONE WEEK ONLY (from April 1-7), New Harbinger are offering a 30% discount on orders placed via their website. The discount, which is only available for US orders, can be obtained by visiting the New Harbinger website and entering the following discount code: SDRFT13

Those outside the US wishing to pre-order the book, can still do so via New Harbinger or Amazon (for £42.50 or £32.44 for the Kindle edition).

Here are some details about the book and endorsements from Niklas Törneke, John Forsyth, Mike Dougher, and David Sloan Wilson:

Full Book Description:
 As acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) increases in popularity among clinicians, it becomes more and more vital to understand its theoretical basis, relational frame theory (RFT). RFT is a psychological theory of human language and cognition, developed by Steven C. Hayes. It focuses on how humans learn language and how language connects them to their environment. In essence, our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are dependent on our experiences and the context that these experiences provide.

Edited by leading relational frame theory (RFT) scholars, Simon Dymond, PhD, and Bryan Roche, PhD, Advances in Relational Frame Theory presents advances in all aspects of RFT research over the last decade, and provides a greater understanding of the core principals of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). The book also contains chapters written by Steven C. Hayes and Kelly Wilson, both research-active experts from the RFT community around the world.
Because ACT is focused largely on accepting one’s thoughts, it is important to understand where these thoughts come from. And while many books on RFT are abstract and require extensive knowledge of behavior analysis, this is the first book to comprehensively but accessibly introduce RFT to ACT mental health professionals.

Gaining a deeper knowledge of the relational concepts of RFT can help you understand why a person's behavior does not always match up with their self-professed values. Whether you are a mental health professional, or simply someone who is interested in the connection between language and experience, this book is an invaluable resource.

Brief Book Description: 
Edited by leading relational frame theory (RFT) scholars, Simon Dymond, PhD, and Bryan Roche, PhD, Advances in Relational Frame Theory presents advances in all aspects of RFT research over the last decade, and provides mental health professionals a greater understanding of the core principals of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). A must-read for anyone interested in ACT, the book contains chapters written by Steven C. Hayes and Kelly Wilson, both research-active experts from the RFT community around the world.

“The interest in relational frame theory is growing within different fields of psychology. For anyone who wants to keep up-to-date with basic research in this area, this is the book to read.”
—Niklas Törneke MD, author of Learning RFT

“Psychology is full of theories of mind, but relational frame theory (RFT) differs from all the rest in many ways. You see that when you open up this book. This lucid and engaging volume brings together the latest cutting-edge research and theory on RFT. It will challenge you in many ways, and also surprise you. It is a must-read for anyone interested in language and cognition, and especially researchers and practitioners of mindfulness and acceptance-based interventions.”
—John P. Forsyth, PhD, professor of psychology director, Anxiety Disorders Research Program University at Albany, State University of New York

“Dymond and Roche have put together an outstanding volume that not only provides an excellent and accessible overview of relational frame theory and its rapidly accumulating empirical evidence, but also elegantly situates RFT in its proper philosophical context, makes contact with other contextually-based sciences, and elucidates nicely the many applied extensions of the theory. This book is a must and enjoyable read for anyone interested in RFT as a powerful new approach to language and cognition as well as its compelling applications.”
—Michael J. Dougher, PhD, senior vice-provost for academic affairs, University of New Mexico

“Relational frame theory addresses the fundamental nature of symbolic thought in addition to its practical applications. It therefore deserves to be known among a large interdisciplinary audience, including my own field of evolutionary science. Advances in Relational Frame Theory reports on the current state of the art.”
—David Sloan Wilson, PhD, president of the Evolution Institute and State University of New York distinguished professor of biology and anthropology, Binghamton University.

So, remember, for ONE WEEK ONLY (from April 1-7), enter the discount code SDRFT13 to receive a 30% discount on all US orders placed via the New Harbinger website.

*commercial ends*

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Le Parsimonious Crow: Part Deux

Our letter (Clever crows or unbalanced birds?) on the Taylor et al. paper claiming to have shown causal reasoning in crows has been published in PNAS, along with the author's reply. 

You can read our letter here and the reply here.

This particular scientific journey started on Twitter, where Mark Haselgrove, Anthony McGregor and I discussed the paper. I then blogged about it, which lead to us firing off a brief, 500-word commentary to PNAS. 

Interestingly, another commentary on the paper has also since been published.

Both commentaries make the point that more empirical work, with appropriate controls, is needed before it can be concluded that crows engage in causal reasoning.