The Study of Rule-Governed Behavior and Derived Stimulus Relations: Bridging the Gap

Colin Harte, Dermot Barnes-holmes, Yvonne Barnes-holmes, Ama Kissi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


The concept of rule-governed behavior or instructional control has been widely recognized for many decades within the behavior-analytic literature. It has also been argued that the human capacity to formulate and follow increasingly complex rules may undermine sensitivity to direct contingencies of reinforcement, and that excessive reliance upon rules may be an important variable in human psychological suffering. Although the concept of rules would appear to have been relatively useful within behavior analysis, it seems wise from time to time to reflect upon the utility of even well-established concepts within a scientific discipline. Doing so may be particularly important if it begins to emerge that the existing concept does not readily orient researchers toward potentially important variables associated with that very concept. The primary purpose of this article is to engage in this reflection. In particular, we will focus on the link that has been made between rule-governed behavior and derived relational responding, and consider the extent to which it might be useful to supplement talk of rules or instructions with terms that refer to the dynamics of derived relational responding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-385
Number of pages25
JournalPerspectives on Behavior Science
Issue number2
Early online date21 May 2020
Publication statusPublished online - 21 May 2020


  • Rule-governed behavior
  • Derived relations
  • Relational networkds
  • Relational frame theory
  • HDML Framework


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