“Intelligence Quotients Can Be Substantially Improved Using Relational Frame Interventions to improve the underlying Derived Relational Responding Skills” reports http://psychology.nuim.ie/Interventions_to_Raise_IQ.shtml

The Psychological Record published a paper, describing the research by Dr. Bryan Roche, NUIM, his former doctoral student Dr. Sarah Cassidy, and colleague Professor Steven C. Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno, USA) which has led to the development of a computer-based intervention that has been shown to significantly raise the intelligence quotients (IQ) of a small group of normally developing and educationally challenged children. In the soon to be published study, the authors report rises in IQ for a sample of 12 children (4 normally developing and 8 educationally challenged), that were significantly larger than those previously thought possible by psychologists.

The soon to be published study, which was financially supported by the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis, describes how four normally developing and eight educationally challenged children from the Kilcock area in Kildare, were provided with an intensive computer-based training procedure in once to twice weekly sessions lasting approximately 90 minutes. The educationally challenged children typically had below average IQs and other diagnosed behavioural or learning disabilities. The specially produced training software taught the children how to derive a range of relations between words that the experimenters had made up for the purpose of this research (such words are called nonsense syllables). The idea was to teach children the skill of deriving relations itself, rather than providing them with any particular knowledge regarding real words or the world around them. In other words, the children were taught a range of basic skills that in turn facilitate the emergence of a range of specific mental abilities.
For example, in one part of the programme children were trained by the computer software to read the following two statements; “Cug is more than Vek, Mau is more than Cug”, and then to confirm as true or false the following statement; “Vek is less than Mau”. To teach children how to respond correctly, hundreds of such examples were provided, each using different nonsense words and each presenting the task in a slightly different way. Whenever the child responded incorrectly, the computer software told the child the correct answer. Children had to reach a strict criterion in order to complete each phase of the study, at which point they could respond correctly to any similar problems quickly and correctly and without feedback.
IQ tests (WISC IV) were administered before and several months later following the interventions. The results were very encouraging. At the outset of the study, the four normal children had an average IQ of 105 (ranging from 96-119). This is typical of normally developing children. Nevertheless, this average IQ was raised to over 130, which is called high functioning and bordering on what psychologists define as genius. The lowest IQ following the intervention was 128 and the highest was 137. This means that these children’s intellectual ability was moved from normal to within the top 2% of the population. Four further normal children who had normal IQs were tracked across the period of the study but they did not receive the derived relational responding intervention. Their IQs showed no change over the intervention period, as expected.

The IQ rises for the 8 educationally challenged children were smaller, but more significant given their previous conditions. These children started the programme with an average IQ of 82, well below the normal score of around 100, with the lowest being 72 and the highest being 92. Following the intervention, these IQs were moved on average to 96, well within the normal IQ range. While all IQs improved, three remained below normal. A further three children had their IQ moved into the normal range, while two had their IQ raised to above normal ranges.

One of the most ambitious aspects of this research relates to the fact that IQ scores are not thought possible to change at all. They are what psychologists refer to as psychological invariants. Psychologists have gone to great lengths over the past century to devise IQ measures that are resistant to practice and which measure fundamental mental abilities rather than knowledge. IQ scores are not expected to change significantly, even with intensive educational intervention. This research, however, did not target the usual educational abilities such as reading, writing and arithmetic, but rather the fundamental skills that underlie all of these abilities. This makes the current research approach unique.

Dr. Roche describes this first study results as exciting but warns that they are preliminary. Further research will be needed to develop the intervention procedure, and to apply it to larger groups of children with a wider range of educational challenges. This work has already begun in laboratories around the world.

What’s Derived relational responding?
Derived relational responding refers to the ability to derive relationships between a set of words or objects given only limited information. For example, given the information; “A is the same as B” and “B is the same as C”, most adults can derive by themselves that A must be the same as C. Philosophers refer to this particular form of derived relational responding as syllogistic reasoning, and mathematicians refer to it using the concepts of equivalence and transitivity. Behavior analytic psychologists believe that the ability to derive relations like this is central to the ability to read, to speak and to reason. In other words, it is central to general intellectual ability.

Behavior analysis research has suggested that parents and teachers need to teach children derived relational skills in order for them to develop normally, and do so routinely without even knowing it. For example, a parent will not just teach a child one word for a television set, they may in fact use two. On one occasion they may refer to it as the “telly” and on another as “the box”. The child will have to be explicitly told in the early years that given this information, “telly” and “box” refer to the same thing. The evidence produced by behavior analysts across a range of studies is that the ability to derive relations between words may not emerge otherwise. This is one of the reasons that social interaction, face to face verbal communication, and story reading with caregivers is so important for a child’s intellectual development.

As a result of these types of social interactions, most children can derive simple relations between synonyms by age 3 or 4. However, many struggle with deriving more complex relations. For example, if an adult is told that “A is bigger than B and B is bigger than C”, most can derive that A must be bigger than C and C must be smaller than A. While such a skill seems rudimentary to most adults, children often struggle to perform these simple tasks. A more complex example might be; “If A is opposite to B and B is opposite to C, and C is opposite to D, what is the relation between A and D”? Even some adults need to think carefully before answering this question. It is in fact quite a difficult task for a child, but one that is crucial in learning how to reason logically and grapple with mathematics later in school.

In their 2001 book Relational Frame Theory, Dr. Roche and his co-authors Steven C. Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno) and Prof, Dermot Barnes-Holmes (also of NUI Maynooth) laid out a specific set of techniques that could be used to understand and establish the fundamental skill called derived relational responding. In numerous studies published over the past two decades, the authors and their international community of colleagues have shown that derived relational responding ability is closely related to intellectual ability and IQ score.

Cassidy, S., Roche, B. & Hayes, S. C. (in press, 2010). A relational frame training intervention to raise Intelligence Quotients: A pilot study. The Psychological Record.
Cassidy, S., Roche, B & O’Hora, D. (in press, 2010). Relational Frame Theory and human intelligence. European Journal of Behavior Analysis.
Download the Nonsense syllable list employed during MET training in the Cassidy, Roche and Hayes study.

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