Relational frame theory claims that the tacit understanding of metaphorical language rests upon our ability to derive relations based on relevant contextual cues; with metaphor aptness being a function of learning history and the number and nature of contextual cues presented. Recent experimental research has explored whether metaphor aptness plays a role in changing behaviour. Sierra, Ruiz, Flórez, Riaño Hernández, and Luciano (2016) demonstrated that the presence of common physical properties (herein common properties; “cold”) within a perseverance metaphor increased pain tolerance to the cold pressor task. When the metaphor also specified appetitive augmental functions (herein augmentals; “something important to you”), pain tolerance also increased. We tested the replicability of these findings under more stringent conditions, using a stratified (by sex) double-blind randomised-controlled experimental design. Eighty-nine participants completed baseline measures of psychological flexibility, cognitive fusion, generalised pliance, and analogical reasoning ability. Participants were then allocated to a pre-recorded audio-delivered metaphor exercise containing either: (i) common properties; (ii) augmentals; (iii) both; or (iv) neither (control condition). Participants completed the cold pressor task before and after intervention. We found no change in pain tolerance following intervention in any condition. Given potential implications for apt metaphor use for changing behaviour, further work is required to establish why the original study's findings were not replicated, to identify boundary conditions for the putative effect, and test metaphor use in ecologically valid settings.
- Relational frame theory