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    Relational Skills and Intelligence: Developing a Functional Account of Intellectual Performance and its Enhancement

    Colbert, Dylan (2019) Relational Skills and Intelligence: Developing a Functional Account of Intellectual Performance and its Enhancement. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    Recent research has implicated the potential utility of reconceptualising general intelligence as representing proficiency in a behavioural skillset known as relational responding. Indeed, a growing literature base proposes that many of the competencies that are traditionally conceived to comprise ‘intelligence’ can actually be understood from this more functional perspective. In addition, as these relational skills are inherently malleable and open to amelioration, a number of analyses have suggested that intellectual function can be improved by training and targeting these skills. In light of this emerging research stream, the current thesis entailed two primary aims: 1) to assess the efficacy of relational skills training in improving intellectual and academic performance and 2) to further investigate the relationship between the wider range of relational frames and intellectual function as a potential means of developing a functional alternative to traditional IQ assessments based on behaviour-analytic principles. In Experiment 1, the efficacy of the SMART program in significantly improving relational responding proficiency was confirmed, using a large sample of Irish secondary school students. Experiment 2 extended upon this finding by analysing the utility of this program in improving intellectual performance using a single-blind randomised controlled trial, reporting significant gains in Full-Scale, Verbal and Performance IQ. As pre-intervention levels of relational ability were found to be an important determinant of post-intervention outcomes, Experiment 3 endeavoured to further investigate this pattern by administering SMART to the youngest, normally-developing sample to date using a crossover design. Statistical analyses revealed the apparent delimiting impact of low levels of intellectual ability at baseline, with only a small proportion of the sample completing the training program within a 4-month period. In light of this finding, Experiment 4 represented the first analysis of the SMART: Remedial system, a training protocol specifically designed to establish the arbitrarily applicable relational skills deemed prerequisite for the main SMART program, as a means of allowing younger children, and those with lower levels of relational skill/intellectual performance to access the benefits the SMART program may provide. Results indicated that such skills were successfully established in a sample of children presenting with additional educational needs and below-average IQ. Due to the recurrent finding that SMART is an efficacious means of improving intellectual function, Experiment 5 assessed the impact of this training on academic performance in a large sample of secondary school students. SMART was found to produce significant improvements on the Irish Department of Education’s academic aptitude assessment of choice, the Drumcondra Reasoning Tests. Experiments 6 & 7 aimed to elucidate the relationship between specific frames of relational responding and intellectual skills by administering two relational skills assessments alongside gold-standard metrics of intellectual performance. Such analyses identified the relational frames of coordination, opposition and comparison as being most closely associated to intellectual function. In addition, such analyses provide important insights into the role of analogical and deictic relational responding in intellectual performance. The results of the current thesis combine to suggest that relational skills interventions may facilitate potentially life-changing improvements in both intellectual and academic performance at a level of magnitude and consistency that has not been replicated by other ‘cognitive enhancement’ protocols. In addition, the insights gleaned from the current set of analyses add further weight to the suggestion that intelligence may be reconsidered as a clearly-defined, functionally-understood, and malleable behavioural repertoire, rather than an invariant, trait-based, mentalistic construct.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Relational Skills; Intelligence; Functional Account; Intellectual Performance; Enhancement;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Psychology
    Item ID: 13824
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2021 14:29
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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