Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Psychopathology, Anxiety or Attentional Control: Determining the Variables Which Predict Irap Performance

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Psychopathology, Anxiety or Attentional Control: Determining the Variables Which Predict Irap Performance

Article excerpt

The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP; Barnes-Holmes et al. 2006) is a widely used measure of so-called implicit cognition. It is a computer-based latency-focused measure which requires participants to respond quickly and accurately to sets of stimuli in a way that is consistent or inconsistent with their previously established responses biases (Barnes-Holmes et al. 2010a). The [RAP was derived from a behavior-analytic account of language and cognition called Relational Frame Theory (RFT; Hayes et at 2001). The fundamental assumption of RFT is that the fundamental components of human language and cognition are relational, and, thus, the IRAP focuses on assessing relations between stimuli (e.g., Hughes et al. 2011). The basic hypothesis of the IRAP is that average response latencies for a group should be shorter across blocks deemed to be consistent relative to inconsistent trials (Barnes-Holmes et al. 2010a), with the assumption that the degree to which the consistent trials differ from the inconsistent trials provides an index of the strength of the verbal or relational responses being assessed (Barnes-Holmes ct al. 2010a, b).

Numerous studies have been carried out which demonstrate the basic TRAP effect that participants will respond faster on trials that are consistent with their previously established verbal relations than those that are inconsistent. An account of this effect has been offered in the form of the Relational Elaboration and Coherence Model (REC; Barnes-Holmes et al. 2010a) which posits that particular IRAP trials produce brief and immediate relational responses (BIRR's) before the participant presses a response key. The likelihood of these B1RR's occurring will be determined by the verbal history of the participant and current contextual variables. These studies encompass a wide variety of domains including those that are relevant to the assessment of psychopathology, socially sensitive topics such as race and issues around methodology. The [RAP has successfully detected spider fear (Nicholson and Barnes-Holmes 2012a), attitudes toward meat and vegetables exhibited by meat-eaters and vegetarians (Barnes-Holmes et al. 2010b), self-esteem (Vahey et al. 2009), disgust in relation to obsessive-compulsive tendencies (Nicholson and Barnes-Holmes 2012b), cocaine dependence (Carpenter et al. 2012), sexual attraction to children among sexual offenders (Dawson et al. 2009) and depression (Hussey and Barnes-Holmes 2012). Critically, it appears that the [RAP effect is not subject to change by motivational forces such as societal pressures and explicit instructions. For instance, white individuals demonstrated pro-white attitudes which were incongruent with their explicit attitudes (Barnes-Holmes et al. 2010a). In addition, even when explicitly instructed on how to fake an IRAP, participants failed to conceal their established verbal relations (McKenna et al. 2007).

The IRAP program requires participants to complete up to three pairs of practice blocks in order to proceed to the fixed set of six test blocks. In these practice blocks, participants must reach the set criteria for that TRAP on a consecutive pair of blocks (e.g., 80 % accuracy and 2000 ms response latency). One critical issue that often arises in IRAP research is the problem of participants failing to achieve the latency and/or accuracy criteria on the practice blocks, or participants failing to maintain the criteria throughout the six test blocks. When this occurs, the participants' dataset is often removed from the entire experiment. An examination of the IRAP literature shows that studies on average lose approximately 15-22 % of participants through failure to meet or retain criteria. Some studies have seen drop-out rates of up to 50 % due to this problem. Anecdotal evidence suggests that much of participant attrition is likely due to instructional issues in that it appears that experimenters with more experience using the IRAP report far lower attrition rates (i. …

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