The IRAP as a Measure of Implicit Cognition: A Case of Frankenstein’s Monster

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The implicit relational assessment procedure (IRAP) was initially developed as a way to assess the strength and probability of natural verbal relations, as defined within relational frame theory (RFT), and was conceptually rooted within the behavior-analytic tradition. However, the IRAP quickly became employed primarily as a measure of implicit cognition, more in line with mainstream psychology than behavior analysis. In doing so, research using the IRAP increasingly employed ill-defined mainstream psychological terms, focused on correlational analyses with traditional psychometry, and thus emphasized prediction over the prediction-and-influence of behavior. Although perhaps beneficial to the study of implicit cognition, this approach could be argued to have limited the IRAP’s utility in behavior analyses of human language and cognition. In the current article we will reflect on this suggestion, on the IRAPs place and current use in the field of behavior analysis, and on its potential future within behavioral psychology in light of recent conceptual and empirical advances in RFT. In doing so, it is hoped that the measure may be refined into a better understood, more precise, functional-analytic tool.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-578
Number of pages20
JournalPerspectives on Behavior Science
Issue number3
Early online date29 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this manuscript was supported by a research fellowship awarded to the second author by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP; Grant #2019/24210-0).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Association for Behavior Analysis International.

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2022.


  • IRAP
  • RFT
  • functional analytic
  • relational frame theory
  • implicit cognition
  • verbal relations


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