A Relational Frame Theory Contribution to Social Categorization

Jonathan Harris Weinstein, Kelly G. Wilson, Chad E. Drake, Karen Kate Kellum


The purpose of this study was to investigate the transformation of stimulus functions from socially relevant to arbitrary stimuli as a model of social stigmatization and categorization. Specifically, participants were trained to respond to arbitrary stimuli as if they were obese or thin stimuli via a matching-to-sample preparation. The impact of this relational conditioning was tested using the Implicit Association Test. The results showed that when participants met the fluency-based training criterion, the bias functions of obese/thin stimuli successfully transformed formally similar variants of the arbitrary stimuli. These results suggest it is possible to affect a transformation of bias functions to wholly arbitrary stimuli using a very brief conditioning history. A clearer conceptualization of the development of stigmatizing categories, particularly as it applies to obesity, might yield important insights into the social contexts that cultivate and maintain stigmatizing attitudes.


relational frame theory, social categorization, obesity, Implicit Association Test, fluency

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/bsi.v17i1.406

Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility