Academic journal article The Psychological Record

The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) as a Measure of Self-Forgiveness: The Impact of a Training History in Clinical Behavior Analysis

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) as a Measure of Self-Forgiveness: The Impact of a Training History in Clinical Behavior Analysis

Article excerpt

Self-forgiveness has many definitions and interpretations, but one common feature in most, if not all, definitions involves the ability to acknowledge (rather than avoid) negative feelings and possible consequences that is deemed to involve some sort of failure, and trying to repair the wrongdoing with corrective behaviors. Examples of research on self-forgiveness in the functional-contextual literature are scarce, but very recent studies (e.g., Bast & Barnes-Holmes 2015a, b; Bast, Barnes-Holmes, & Barnes-Holmes, 2015) have investigated attitudes to self-forgiveness in terms of feelings and outcomes, related to minor failures and successes. Acknowledging feelings and outcomes in relation to self-forgiveness constitutes only one possible aspect or feature of this psychological domain. (1) Nevertheless, the authors chose to focus on this area because it was considered the first step in the process of self-forgiveness. For example, if one avoids contacting the feelings produced by some negative situation caused by oneself, there would be no necessity for self-forgiveness. Furthermore, according to Hayes, Strosahl, and Wilson (2011), accepting negative feelings or outcomes associated with an experience may contribute to psychological openness, learning, and compassion toward oneself and others. In contrast, the costs and dangers of avoidance of negative experiences have been recognized in most systems of therapy. For example, a common assumption in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is that when clients attempt to avoid specific psychological events, those experiences often return and may be deemed even more distressing and dominant than before (Hayes et al, 2011).

The vast majority of studies that have aimed to explore self-forgiveness, in therapeutic or other contexts, have typically employed self-report measures or scales. For example, a questionnaire might ask participants to indicate on a scale of 1 to 5 how easily they find it to forgive themselves if they failed in some way or made some sort of mistake. In adopting such a research strategy, however, it is possible that an individual's responses might be influenced by extraneous variables. For instance, individuals might respond in a manner that aims to reduce the likelihood that they will be perceived in a negative light, by indicating a relatively low level of self-forgiveness in order not to be seen as being too soft on themselves. It is also well established in the psychological literature that individuals do not necessarily have access to highly reliable sources of information about their own psychological states, and, thus, self-reports about levels of self-forgiveness might not always reflect exactly how individuals react in their day-to-day lives in this regard.

In an effort to provide a methodology that might circumvent such problems, and could thus be used to supplement self-report measures, a number of recent studies have focused on developing the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) as a measure of self-forgiveness (Bast & Barnes-Holmes, 2014, 2015a, b). Unlike self-reports, the IRAP, similar to most implicit measures, requires that participants respond quickly and accurately on a task that is designed to capture the strength of responding in the domain of interest. The metric that is often derived from the measure involves calculating the difference in speed of responding with which participants complete the task. In the context of an IRAP designed to examine self-forgiveness, for example, participants may be asked to confirm that they find it easy to forgive themselves on some blocks of trials and to deny that they find it easy to do so on other blocks of trials. The relative difference in the speed with which these two blocks are completed may be used to provide a measure of implicit self-forgiveness. In effect, more rapid responding during blocks confirming rather than denying self-forgiveness may be interpreted as a bias toward implicit self-forgiveness for that participant. …

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