Below are PDFs of some of the Mechner Foundation's documents and publications in educational innovation, basic research, and other areas.
This article is an empirical-naturalistic study of aesthetics that seeks to position aesthetics as a subject matter that can be addressed by the methods of experimental science. It examines hundreds of aesthetic phenomena in 17 diverse arts and other disciplines, with the goal of identifying the attributes that all such phenomena have in common. It also postulates that aesthetic phenomena may be special cases of a more fundamental aspect of human behavior, with primordial evolutionary roots. The article is in press with The Psychological Review. The journal has invited commentaries on the article from eleven leaders in the field, for publication in a future issue.
Mechner, F. (in press) A behavioral and biological analysis of aesthetics: Implications for research and applications. The Psychological Record.
Formal symbolic languages accelerate the progress and maturation of their disciplines by defining the basic units, making their relationships visually accessible, identifying their parameters, recording and communicating the discipline’s knowledge, categorizing and conceptualizing it, and teaching it. The paper explains why the field of behavior analysis needs such a language, with examples of its applications.
Also available at: Mechner, F. (2011). Why behavior analysis needs a formal symbolic language for codifying behavioral contingencies. European Journal of Behavioral Analysis, 12, 93-104.
This PowerPoint presentation, originally given at the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies in Atlanta, Georgia, in November 2010, was directed at an audience of leaders in the field of behavior analysis.
Deception is analyzed in terms of its behavioral contingency components. The analysis focuses on types of deception that are prevalent in human affairs, including interpersonal relationships and economics, and categorizes diverse forms of deception according to whether their effect on the deceived is direct or indirect, based on misperception, non-perception or misprediction, intentional or unintentional, gradual, or sudden.
Also available at: Mechner, F. (2010). Anatomy of deception: A behavioral contingency analysis. Behavioral Processes, 84, 516-520.
Given that all economic phenomena consist of human behavior, how can behavioral science help us understand them? We are particularly interested in understanding the phenomena that have the greatest impact on our lives and on society, like those that involve large-scale property transfers—buying and selling, lending and borrowing, aggregation and partitioning of property, and government interventions in these. This paper shows how the application of behavioral contingency analysis can advance such an understanding.
This paper discusses how behavioral contingency analysis can demonstrate that locomotion behavior is the phylogenetic ancestor and biological homologue of certain complex verbal processes such as reading or copying. More broadly, it illustrates how behavioral contingency analysis can show how behavioral phenomena that may seem unrelated actually involve the same underlying behavioral processes.
Also available at: Mechner, F. (2009). Analyzing variable behavioral contingencies: Are certain complex skills homologous with locomotion? Behavioral Processes, 81, 316-321.
This is an expanded version of the paper “Behavioral Contingency Analysis” published in Behavioral Processes, described above.
This paper describes a formal language for the codification of behavioral contingencies, and illustrates the language’s applications to economics, law, business management, clinical psychology, education, public affairs, and games. The paper is an update of, “A notation system for the description of behavioral procedures” (JEAB, 1959) and the 1966 Weingarten and Mechner paper, “The contingency as an independent variable of social interaction” (see Publications).
Also available at: Mechner, F. (2008). Behavioral contingency analysis. Behavioral Processes, 78, 124-144.
The revealed operant is intended as a laboratory research model of any operant response. The model’s purpose is to permit the internal structure and properties of operants to be recorded and studied. With commentaries by Donald M. Baer, M. Jackson Marr, John A. Nevin, and Thom Verhave.
Chapter 9 of the monograph The Revealed Operant: A Way to Study the Characteristics of Individual Occurrences of Operant Responses (available in full above). This chapter develops the thesis that the usual effect of a reinforcer is not to increase the strength of the preceding behavior, but rather to perpetuate its direction of change. The Foundation has conducted a research program to address this issue experimentally, using shaping procedures for various types of revealed operants.
This paper discusses the status of hypothetical constructs, models, and explanatory fictions in science generally, and in psychology in particular. It explores possible reasons why the problem is particularly insidious in the behavioral sciences.
Invited comments on a classical article dealing with the role and status of mathematical modeling in behavior research.
Also available at: Mechner, F. (2012). Remarks regarding Charles Catania’s 1981 discussion article “The Flight from Experimental Analysis.” European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 13, 227-230.