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Using the concept of rule-governed behaviour to integrate the cognitive and behavioural therapies : a theoretical analysis : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
The concept of rule-governed behaviour (RGB) was introduced by B.F Skinner (1969) to allow complex verbal behaviour to be amenable to the same types of contingency analysis used in most other areas of applied behaviourism. Inherent in the concept of RGB is the notion that people formulate and follow rules created by themselves and others and that this constitutes a distinct class of operant functioning. As the process of cognitive therapy is primarily undertaken in a verbal fashion, the possibility of employing the concept of RGB to redefine aspects of cognitive therapy from an operant perspective has been considered by several researchers (e.g., Zettle & Hayes, 1982; Poppen, 1989). This form of paradigmatic integration, involving the transplantation of one set of therapeutic techniques into the theoretical body of another epistemological framework, can be termed assimilative (Lazarus & Messer. 1991). The present essay clarifies the aims and content of such an integration as it relates to the concept of RGB and cognitive-behavioural rapprochement, and offers several theoretical advancements in this direction. Errors in rule-following and rule-formulation are discussed in terms of the role they play in cognitive assessment, and the cognitive mechanisms involved in therapeutic change are also analysed in terms of RGB. It is also shown how RGB can be conceptualised as a reciprocally-determined system of responding, similar to that espoused by the cognitive theorist Albert Bandura (1977a). Finally, some of the problems associated with the concept of RGB and psychotherapy integration are reviewed in relation to the present analysis.