Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #143
Music and Psychological Flexibility: Possible Avenues for Therapeutic Applications and Theoretical Development
Sunday, May 27, 2012
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
605 (Convention Center)
Area: TPC/CBM; Domain: Theory
Chair: Lara V. Rimassa (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Discussant: Scott A. Herbst (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)

Music has multiple effects and functions in people's lives, both among those who actively participate in its production and those who listen to musical performances. The current symposium discusses some of the ways that music has been utilized and studied in the therapeutic setting, from a variety of different theoretical perspectives. Possible applications of music in therapeutic situations will be discussed, with a special emphasis on ways that music can facilitate progress in therapeutic domains specified by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). In particular, the relevance of music as a tool to enhance or underscore psychological flexibility will be emphasized. In addition, potential strategies for investigating ways that music affects interpersonal experience will be described. Finally, potential theoretical implications of the study of music will be discussed, including the possible relevance of Relational Frame Theory and related behavioral phenomena such as transformation of function, arbitrarily (and non-arbitrarily) derived relational responding, and combinatorial entailment.

Keyword(s): contextual behaviorism, music therapy, Psychological flexibility

Music as a Therapeutic Tool: Some Places We've Been and Some Places We Can Be

LARA V. RIMASSA (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Brenton Abadie (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), David R. Perkins (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

This paper discusses some of the literature on the effects of music, both from a biological and from a therapeutic perspective, leading into possible avenues of exploration from a behavior analytic perspective. Music evokes various and complex responses, and many individuals have reported that music has been a valuable tool for psychological insight, even claiming that music "understands them." In general, much of research on music therapy has focused on active participation in a musical experience, but potential for application to the experience of the musical listener holds much promise. Music can be established as a safe context through which a given individual's emotions can be expressed and understood. In addition, a listener may verbally place personal experiences inside aspects of the musical material, an experience described in the literature with the psychoanalytic term "projective identification." Behavior analysis can also provide a non-mentalistic language, based on environment-behavior relations, with which to discuss such experiences. One possible framework that can be used to this effect is the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy "hexaflex" model.


When is Fusing Not Really Fusing? The Potential Effects of Music on Psychological Flexibility

DAVID R. PERKINS (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Brenton Abadie (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Lara V. Rimassa (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

This paper examines the ways in which music can be experienced psychologically, examined within the "hexaflex" framework of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). When discussed in terms of the processes identified by the hexaflex model (being present, acceptance, defusion, self-as-context, values, and committed action), music can serve multiple and in some cases contradictory functions depending upon the context. For example, music has been used as a therapeutic tool for being in the present moment but also can function as a device to be distracted from the present moment. Of particular interest here is the experience of fusion, which has been conceptualized as the tendency to treat a thought as what it refers to. Looked at in this way, music (and, often, its corresponding lyrics) can lead to a version of fusion in the sense that the listener can get so into the listening experience that the person may say "I lost myself in the music." The question of whether this promotes or detracts from psychological flexibility in a general sense may lie in the functional rather than structural properties of the musical experience.


Strange Relations: Possible Connections Between the Experience of Music and Relational Frame Theory

DAVID R. PERKINS (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Brenton Abadie (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Lara V. Rimassa (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

This paper examines possible applications of Relational Frame Theory to the study of music. The psychological effects of music are varied, and lead to a number of different questions, including: Is music processed by humans in the same way as language, and what are the important differences? How do lyrics interact with music, and how might music change the experience of lyrical content? Do structural components of music (rhythm, melody, harmony, etc.) have inherent meaning, or is meaning only generated by the historical associations that it evokes? Obviously, many learned responses to music come from direct experience, for example the association of songs with specific memories and emotions. However, there are also ways in which music could generate novel behavior via psychological transformation of function. Music, and the emotional states in generates, could potentially exert contextual control over the transformation of psychological function, or serve as a vehicle for perspective-taking to facilitate non equivalence-based transformation of function. Finally, study of the effects of music may facilitate the investigation of combinatorial or time-based, relational frames, such as "building up to" or "coming down from."




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