The overarching aim of the project is to develop a functional account of human psychopathology, which is embedded within a functional-cognitive meta-theoretical framework. This framework entails that the cognitive and functional approaches in psychology are mutually supportive. Whereas functional research on psychopathology may provide data that need to be explained at the cognitive level, cognitive theorising may generate new predictions at the functional level of analysis about the contextual conditions that influence psychopathological behaviour. The project will draw on a modern functional approach, known as Relational Frame Theory (RFT), to develop an account of human psychopathology. In doing so, the project will complement and contribute to important lines of research in cognitive psychology, many of which are also central to the research of faculty members at Ghent University. The proposed project will consist of 5 separate but interrelated lines of research.
Line 1 will involve a series of experimental studies that seek to analyse the functional independence of fear and avoidance responses, which emerge based on verbal reasoning, and their respective “reatments”in clinical and sub-clinical populations.
Line 2 will involve experimental analyses of the role of learning through rules or instructions in creating various maladaptive behaviours in clinical and sub-clinical populations.
Line 3 will involve experimental research that explores how learning through verbal rules or instructions may generate psychopathological responses on various measures of implicit cognition.
Line 4 will explore the extent to which psychopathology is related to inflexibility (versus flexibility) in perspective-taking, focusing in particular on the prediction of treatment outcomes.
Line 5 will be largely conceptual, the key objective of which will be to lay the groundwork for a functional-diagnostic taxonomy of psychopathology based on previous RFT research and the empirical and conceptual analyses that emerge from the other four research lines of this research project.