Interfacing relational frame theory with cognitive neuroscience: Semantic priming, the implicit association test, and event related potentials

Barnes-Holmes, Dermot
Revista Internacional de Psicolog’ia y Terapia Psicológica, 4(2): 215—240, 2004

The current article argues that an important component of the research agenda for Relational
Frame Theory will involve studying the functional relations that obtain between
environmental events and the physiological activity that takes place inside the brain and
central nervous system, with a particular focus on human language and cognition. In
support of this view, five separate experiments are outlined. The first three experiments
replicate and extend previous research reported by Hayes and Bisset (1998). Specifically,
the research, using both reaction time and neurophysiological measures, supports the
argument that there is a clear functional overlap between semantic and derived stimulus
relations. Specifically, an evoked potential waveform typically associated with semantic
processing (N400) is shown to be sensitive to equivalence versus non-equivalence relations.
Experiments 4 and 5 indicate that these reaction time and evoked potential effects are not
restricted to traditional lexical decision tasks, but can also be observed using the implicit
association test. Furthermore, preliminary evidence suggests that evoked potentials might
constitute a more sensitive measure of derived stimulus relations than response time. The
results obtained across all five experiments support the view that the study of derived
stimulus relations, combined with some of the procedures and measures of cognitive
psychology and cognitive neuroscience, may provide an important inroad into the experimental
analysis of semantic relations in human language