Functional Contextualism

Functional Contextualism
The Matrix began as a PowerPoint (Keynote) slide show about Functional Contextualism (FC).

Root Metaphor

FC is the philosophy of science at the root of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Relational Frame Theory (RFT).

All philosophies have a Root Metaphor, and the root metaphor for FC is "The act in context." Said another way...

We look at the Function of a behavior (Toward or Away) in the context (both sensory and mental) of the behavior.

Walking (behavior) on a beach while you are in a good mood is a context. Walking (behavior) on a city street in a bad mood is another context. You could of couse be walking on the beach in a bad mood and walking on the city street in a good mood. You and your behavior are part of the context.

Now let's turn that up a notch. From the Functional Contextual view your mood is also a behavior that is part of the context...

Walking and mooding on a beach are one context, and walking and mooding on a city street is another context.

We can shorten that more from the Functional Contextual view...

Being on a beach and being on a city street.

We can further shorten that to...


Predict and Influence with Precision, Scope and Depth

From a Functional Contextual view we are looking for what behaviors (being) works to move us toward values.

The Functional Contextual view goes further because it assumes that we are always trying to predict and influence. We are all interested in what we will do next, and we would like for our future behaviors to move us toward important social values.

Precision: A few words result in accurate prediction and maximum influence.

Scope: A few words apply to a broad range of contexts. For example, from beaches to city streets.)

Depth:  A few words apply to different levels of analysis. For example, we can look at individual and group behavior in the present (psychology and sociology) and behaviors of individuals and groups across time (anthropology).


The functional contextual analysis always returns to the question, "What works in context to move toward values?" Since the context is constantly changing because the universe is constantly changing, what works for values now might not work in the future. We need to constantly keep in touch with the present moment to track the context and test for workability.

Workability is important because it's a radically different analysis than most humans are used to doing. Humans are usually interested in right and wrong analyses, not workability.

Before we go further into Functional Contextualism, let's first take a brief look at a theory of language and cognition called Relational Frame Theory (RFT). RFT is based on Functional Contextualism, and a brief look at RFT will help us in our further discussion of functional contextualism.

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