Date of Graduation

Summer 2022


Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis



Committee Chair

Jordan Belisle


Behavior Analysis “attempts to improve the human condition through behavior change”, with behavior being the primary target (BACB, n.d.). However, considering the way people perceive, interact with, and establish relational frames within different contexts is widely misunderstood. Much of this research has expanded on the components found in Stimulus Equivalence (SE) and Relational Frame Theory (RFT) by providing a more modern approach to examining language and its treatment approach. Relational responding of individuals and groups may contribute to implicit biases, prejudice, and discrimination as well as how they operate within nested contingency systems. While critical theorists have provided foundations for examining the implications and barriers continued by oppressive systems, the formation of the complex interplay within relational behavior as it relates to issues of oppression have not been adequately explored. Thus, the purpose of this study, to attempt to explore how organization of arbitrary stimuli along with the pre-existing relational frames as a function of the history and how it may attribute such bias. The present study occurred in two phases. Phase one being a relational training task to establish bias in favor of or against an Arbitralien, a creature with arbitrary features interacting within an arbitrary planet with a deep cultural divide. The second phase of the study was a Multidimensional Scaling Procedure (MDS) where participants were presented with a series of pairwise combinations and instructed to scale them on a 0 (not related) – 10 (most related) scale in terms of relatedness to one another. Results found that there were distinct formations of relational classes that resulted from the direct training as well as the derivative responses of the remaining Arbitraliens. Results provide many implications for understanding the way bias is formed in correspondence with functional and contextual similarity.


discrimination, bias, prejudice, relational frame theory, relational density theory

Subject Categories

Social Justice


© Elana Keissa Sickman

Open Access