The Rational-Emotive Behavior Model

The Rational-Emotive Behavior (REB) Model (Ellis, 1962) explores how individuals process external events and how the results of this processing impacts their behavior. It describes the relationships among values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations (VABEs). People are emotionally impacted, feel psychological dis-comfort, when their VABEs are threatened, and they use defense mechanisms to protect their psychological well-being. People draw conclusions about themselves and about their external environment based on what they perceive in comparison to their VABEs. These conclusions impact their behavior, what they do and what they say. If their perceptions are in line with their VABEs, they may behave in a positive way. If their perspectives are out of sync with their VABEs, they experience psychological discomfort and may become defensive if they feel threatened.

Figure 3-3 builds on Albert Ellis’s REB Model. I expanded the model to account for the human instincts, emotions, intellect, and intuition discussed earlier. I described the model within the framework of the basic input, processing, and output computing model familiar to IT professionals:

  • • Input: REB activating experiences or adversities
  • • Processing: Inside the human mind—REB beliefs, ideas, and philosophies about adversities
  • • Output: REB consequences and results

Table 3-4 provides definitions for the terms used in Figure 3-3.

REB Model with intuition, emotions, intellect, and intuition. [Data derived from Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. NY

Figure 3-3 REB Model with intuition, emotions, intellect, and intuition. [Data derived from Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. NY: Lyle Stuart.]

Many therapists and researchers consider defense mechanisms when analyzing human behavior. Defense mechanisms have significant influence on our response to the world, as we use them to protect our wellbeing. Several widely used defense mechanisms are provided in Table 3-5.

This modified REB model addresses the instincts, emotions, intellect, and intuition along with the VABEs, perceptions and filters, defense mechanisms, and conclusions within the mind of one person. This framework becomes more interesting when we add a communication partner. Instead of a stand-alone system with its own input, processing, and output, we now have a communication process, a network that integrates those systems.

Table 3-4 REB Model Terms



Filters— Perceptions

Perceptions result from the process of organizing and interpreting sensory information, enabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events (Meyers, 2007). These activities enable living beings to order and interpret the stimulants received into meaningful insight. We all have different interpretations to stimulants, and therefore, we filter events differently and sometimes inaccurately (Perception, n.d.).


Values are judgments about how important something is to us (Values, n.d.).


Assumptions are the premise or supposition that something is a fact; therefore, this is the act of taking something for granted. Assumptions represent how we think things should be (Assumptions, n.d.). Beliefs A belief system is a set of beliefs which guide and govern a person’s attitude. Usually, it is directed toward a system such as a religion, philosophy, or ideology. Attitudes and beliefs in these systems are closely associated with one another and are retained in memory (Belief, n.d.).


Expectations are the state of tense and emotional anticipation. We experience psychological discomfort when our expectations are not met (Expectation, n.d.).



Defense mechanisms are the unconscious reaction the ego uses to protect itself from anxiety arising from psychic conflict (Defense Mechanisms, n.d.).


Conclusions are the offer to which a stream of analysis or opposing matter leads. Conclusions lead to feelings (Conclusions, n.d.)

Table 3-5 Defense Mechanisms




Refusal to admit a threat is relevant or that it will occur


Refusal to face the threat


Making excuses to explain away threats


Complex rationalization of threats


Redirecting reactions from a more threatening activity to a less threatening activity or action


Attributing negative emotions to others rather than accepting them


Reverting back to an earlier, less mature state

Data derived from Kehoe, D. (2011) Effective Communications Skills. Chantilly, VA: The Great Courses.

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