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Behav Anal. 2010 Spring;33(1):97-117.

Evaluating the evidence base for relational frame theory: a citation analysis.

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Swansea University.


Relational frame theory (RFT) is a contemporary behavior-analytic account of language and cognition. Since it was first outlined in 1985, RFT has generated considerable controversy and debate, and several claims have been made concerning its evidence base. The present study sought to evaluate the evidence base for RFT by undertaking a citation analysis and by categorizing all articles that cited RFT-related search terms. A total of 174 articles were identified between 1991 and 2008, 62 (36%) of which were empirical and 112 (64%) were nonempirical articles. Further analyses revealed that 42 (68%) of the empirical articles were classified as empirical RFT and 20 (32%) as empirical other, whereas 27 (24%) of the nonempirical articles were assigned to the nonempirical reviews category and 85 (76%) to the nonempirical conceptual category. In addition, the present findings show that the majority of empirical research on RFT has been conducted with typically developing adult populations, on the relational frame of sameness, and has tended to be published in either The Psychological Record or the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Overall, RFT has made a substantial contribution to the literature in a relatively short period of time.


citation analysis; relational frame theory; verbal behavior

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