How Relational Frame Theory Is Giving “Brain Training” Apps Competition

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

Bryan Roche, PhD, co-author of the seminal book Relational Frame Theory: A Post-Skinnerian Account of Human Language and Cognition, wrote an article recently for The Conversation, criticizing the recent popularity of so-called “brain training” software.

Dr. Roche, and others such as Emma Blakey, PhD of the University of Sheffield, acknowledge that, while such software is raking in big bucks, the scientific evidence behind most of the products are lacking.  Moreover, there is a very real concern that such apps are really only designed to make you better at playing the games themselves, rather than building functional skill sets in the users repertoires.

Dr. Roche goes on to discuss how research in Relational Frame Theory is specifically designed to train specific functional skills useful in the myriad language-based problem solving that helps us in our lives every day.  Dr. Roche noted “these skills are called relational framing skills and they involve the comprehension of some basic relational concepts: sameness, difference, oppositeness, more and less, along with a few others.”

Past research has shown relational framing skills to be predictors of intelligence, among other things.  Additional research suggests that relational skills are required before one is able to perform important language-based tasks such as reading and logical reasoning.

But there’s more…

Dr. Roche goes on to describe his own research evaluating relational training procedures in children using a fully automated “relational skills-training course” reminiscent of “brain-training” programs discussed previously.  Results suggest the relational training course improved IQ by as much as 25 points.

Be sure to check out Dr. Roche’s full article and let us know what you think of this research in the comments below!  Also, be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox.


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