15.37 Challenge of Understanding Rule-Governed Behavior


It has been difficult for psychologists to understand exactly how rules work and how they can affect our behavior the way they do. They are clearly based on language, but the exact process by which they influence behavior has not been understood. RFT offers a very specific and promising account of rule-governed behavior. According to RFT, rules are effective for humans because they provide cues for responding relationally to events in our environment. Through their participation in relational frames, the psychological functions of these events are changed.

A cartoon girl displaying contingency-shaped behavior reacts with "yikes" to a painful burn while holding a pot.
Contingency-Shaped Behavior
A cartoon of a girl with a cup of coffee serving as an RFT1536 Rule-Governed Behavior Example.
Rule-Governed Behavior
  1. Hayes, S. C. (Ed). (1989). Rule-governed behavior: Cognition, contingencies, and instructional control. New York: Plenum Press.
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