Perspectives on Behavior Science

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 189–213 | Cite as

Related to Anxiety: Arbitrarily Applicable Relational Responding and Experimental Psychopathology Research on Fear and Avoidance

  • Simon DymondEmail author
  • Marc Bennett
  • Sean Boyle
  • Bryan Roche
  • Michael Schlund


Humans have an unparalleled ability to engage in arbitrarily applicable relational responding (AARR). One of the consequences of this ability to spontaneously combine and relate events from the past, present, and future may, in fact, be a propensity to suffer. For instance, maladaptive fear and avoidance of remote or derived threats may actually perpetuate anxiety. In this narrative review, we consider contemporary AARR research on fear and avoidance as it relates to anxiety. We first describe laboratory-based research on the emergent spread of fear- and avoidance-eliciting functions in humans. Next, we consider the validity of AARR research on fear and avoidance and address the therapeutic implications of the work. Finally, we outline challenges and opportunities for a greater synthesis between behavior analysis research on AARR and experimental psychopathology.


Arbitrarily applicable relational responding Stimulus relations Generalization Experimental psychopathology Fear Avoidance Anxiety 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This manuscript does not contain the findings of original research.


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Experimental Psychopathology Lab, Department of PsychologySwansea UniversitySwanseaUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyReykjavík UniversityReykjavíkIceland
  3. 3.Trinity College Institute of NeuroscienceTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyMaynooth UniversityMaynoothIreland
  5. 5.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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