An exploratory analysis of Relational Density Theory: Relational resistance and gravity


We conducted an initial exploration of several model assumptions in Relational Density Theory (Belisle & Dixon, in press) across two experiments with 18 college student participants. The first experiment showed that relational density (response accuracy/response time) may be influenced by relative rates of reinforcement or training exposure, and that denser classes were more resistant to counterconditioning (i.e., relational resistance). In the second experiment, two classes were established that differed in size, and for most initial participants, greater density was obtained for the smaller class. When a third class was established, and a class member from the third class was presented as a sample along with competing comparison stimuli from the initial two classes, most participants matched the new class member with the denser class (i.e., relational gravity). Additional participants were added, and a familiar stimulus was substituted into the larger class. For all additional participants, greater density was observed for the larger class containing the familiar stimulus, and participants matched the new class member with the larger-denser class. Results support several model assumptions, but several model inconsistent findings are presented as avenues for future research.



Document Type





Relational density theory, Relational frame theory, Self-organization, Stimulus equivalence

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science