The present paper was prompted by a discussion that took place on the OBM Network Google group in January/February 2010. The introduction of this paper is designed to provide some context for those OBM Network members who do not follow the Google group postings and, additionally, to provide a brief overview of Relational Frame Theory (RFT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to the OBM community.
In the book Verbal Behavior, Skinner provided a comprehensive, behavioral account of language. While the impact of Skinner’s analysis on empirical research has been examined broadly, this review of the literature focused on studies relevant to organizational behavior management (OBM). Both empirical and nonempirical journal articles in OBM were analyzed, along with several influential books in the field. The results of this review indicate that the conceptual framework provided in Verbal Behavior has had virtually no impact on empirical research in OBM and very limited impact on conceptual work. Potential reasons for this lack of influence are discussed, and further research on verbal behavior in organizations is encouraged.
Although Skinner’s Verbal Behavior (1957) was published over 50 years ago, behavior-analytic research on human language and cognition has been slow to develop. In recent years, a new behavioral approach to language known as relational frame theory (RFT) has generated considerable attention, research, and debate. The controversy surrounding RFT can be difficult to fully appreciate, partly because of the complexity of the theory itself and partly because the debate has spanned several years and several journals. The current paper aims to provide a concise overview of RFT and a summary of key points of debate and controversy.