FAST Training for Cognitive and Emotional Flexibility

Fast Cognitive Training


The FAST (full name; function acquisition Speed Test) is a newly developed training and testing programme designed to both measure the strength of associations between concepts, and to weaken the effect of those associations where they are emotionally problematic. It has emerged from the Relational Frame Theory (RFT) research programme at Maynooth University and aligns with the approach of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in helping people to “deliteralize” the meanings of threatening or painful words and to open then up emotionally to other possible ways of confronting painful concepts.

The FAST works by providing practice at both confirming and disconfirming associations between sensitive words and images (e.g., spiders for a person afraid of spiders) and various other positive and negative concepts. Across many sessions of practice, the user becomes more and more fluent and comfortable associating painful stimuli in various ways that loosen their often rigid emotional responses to those words or images (or thoughts associated with them). Target scores assigned to the game, are designed to indicate to users when their responses to these potentially problematic concepts are at reasonably maximal flexibility. However, even after reaching these target scores, users are encouraged to continue practicing their “emotional flexibility” on relevant FAST games.

The FAST has been developed across several published studies emerging from the Maynooth University RFT lab, but has not yet been rigorously tested for clinical purposes. It is directly based, however, on some core approaches of ACT. For reference, some relevant published papers are listed

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FAST Research Publications


The following publications represent a sample of papers that provide a background to the rationale of the FAST (function acquisition speed test) method.

  • Tyndall, I., Curtis, A., Cummins, J., & Roche, B. (2019). The Function Acquisition Speed Test (FAST) as a measure of verbal stimulus relations in the context of condom use. The Psychological Record 69, 107-115.
  • Cummins, J., Roche, B., Tyndall, I., & Cartwright, A. (2018). The relationship between differential stimulus relatedness and implicit test effect sizes. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behaivor, 118, 24-38.
  • Assaz, D., Roche, B., Kanter, J., & Oshio, C. K. B. (2018). Cognitive Defusion in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: What Are the Basic Processes of Change? The Psychological Record, 68, 405-418.
  • Tyndall, I., Papworth, R., Roche, B., & Bennett, M. (2017). Differential Effects of word-repetition rate on cognitive defusion of believability and discomfort of negative self-referential thoughts post-intervention and at one-month follow-up. The Psychological Record.
  • Cartwright, A., Roche, B., Gogarty, M., O’Reilly, A. & Stewart, I. (2016). Using a Modified Function Acquisition Speed Test (FAST) for Assessing Implicit Gender Stereotypes. The Psychological Record, 66, 223-233.
  • Amd, M., & Roche, B. (2016). A derived transformation of emotional functions using self-reports, Implicit Association Tests and frontal alpha asymmetries. Learning & Behavior, 44, 175-90.
  • O’Reilly, A., Roche, B., Ruiz, M., Ryan, A., & Campion, G. (2013). A Function Acquisition Speed Test for equivalence relations (FASTER). The Psychological Record, 63, 707-724.
  • O'Reilly, A., Roche, B., Ruiz, M. R., Tyndall, I. & Gavin, A. (2012). The Function Acquisition Speed Test (FAST): A behavior-analytic implicit test for assessing stimulus relations. The Psychological Record, 62, 507–528.
  • Gavin, A., Roche, B., Ruiz, M. R. & Hogan, M., & O’Reilly, A, (2012). A behavior-analytically modified Implicit Association Test for measuring the sexual categorization of children. The Psychological Record, 62, 55-68.
  • Roche, B., & O’Reilly, A., Gavin, A., Ruiz, M. R. & Arancibia, G. (2012). Using behavior-analytic implicit tests to assess sexual interests among normal and sex-offender populations. Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology, 2, 17335 - DOI: 10.3402/snp.v2i0.17335

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