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The Paideia Individualized Education (PIE) Model
F. Mechner, V. Fiallo, T. Fredrick, & T. Jenkins, 2013.

In 1968 at the Armonk Paideia School, Mechner introduced a novel approach to K-12 education—one that applies what is known about education, the learning process, organizational theory, and psychology. The approach, termed "Paideia Individualized Education" (PIE), has been receiving further refinement at the Queens Paideia School. It features a team of 4 learning managers and 2 interns with long-term charge of the education of 30 children in the 5 to 17 age range.

There are no grades or classes in the PIE model--every student is educated as a unique individual, with a customized learning plan consisting of learning objectives drawn from a large relational database. The objectives cover mathematics, science, language arts, and social studies, as well as social skills, self-management skills, learning skills, and thinking skills.

Most students advance by more than one grade level per year as they routinely make explicit commitments to achieve specific learning objectives. Failure patterns are eliminated because students always work at their actual level of achievement and their own best pace. When a number of PIE schools are aggregated to form a larger school in which the small schools operate as self-contained units, the benefits of PIE schools are preserved, at a per-pupil cost below that of most present-day public schools.

How Can One Specify and Teach Thinking Skills?
F. Mechner, T. Fredrick & T. Jenkins, to be published in 2013.

By conceptualizing thinking as a form of behavior, the methods of learning theory become applicable to the teaching of thinking skills. Most thinking skills can then be defined and specified as heuristics that are useful in diverse situations. The many situations that a student encounters throughout the day, social and other, can be described in terms of the heuristics that would enable the student to make the many required small decisions. Such heuristics generally take the form of identifying these situations, as, for instance, “I’m uncomfortable,” “I’m faced with a problem,” “I’m trying to understand something,” and for each such type of situation, to invoke a set of questions that might then be appropriate, like, “Have I seen a similar problem?” “Is the problem worth solving?” “Do I need help?” Each of these heuristics would have follow-on heuristics, thus forming branching decision trees. Learning theory provides effective procedures for teaching such decision trees. Once learned and applied repeatedly, heuristics become automatized and increasingly covert until they have turned into habitual thinking patterns. Defining thinking skills as heuristics that are learned in overt form and then made covert and automatized by dint of extensive repetition, provides a practical approach to teaching a wide range of thinking skills, including creativity.

Remarks Regarding Charles Catania's 1981 Discussion Article "The Flight From Experimental Analysis"
F. Mechner, 2012.

These are invited comments on a classical article dealing with the role and status of mathematical modeling in behavior research.

Mechner, F. (2012). Remarks regarding Charles Catania's 1981 discussion article "The Flight from Experimental Analysis." European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 13, 227-230.

Why Behavior Analysis Needs a Formal Symbolic Language for Codifying Behavioral Contingencies
F. Mechner, 2011.

A formal symbolic language codifies its discipline's basic units and the relationships among these. In the sciences, formal symbolic languages codify the known events that can be manipulated and controlled -- the independent variables, rather than their empirically observed effects. The symbols of the behavioral contingency language codify available behavior, its assumed potential consequences, and parameters of these. This language can accommodate the complexity of the behavioral contingencies that are at the core of such diverse fields as education, sociology, economics, health, business management, law, public affairs, and activity that impacts the environment. Formal symbolic languages can accelerate the progress and maturation of their disciplines by (1) defining basic units, (2) making relationships among these visually accessible, (3) identifying their parameters, (4) recording and communicating the discipline's knowledge, (5) categorizing and conceptualizing it, and (6) teaching it. Examples are presented to show how the present formal symbolic language can perform these vital functions in the behavioral sciences. One example demonstrates how the language makes explicit the parameters of the traditional three-term operant contingency. Another demonstrates how a wide range of behavioral contingencies can be conceptualized and grouped, including prevention, deception, theory of mind situations, contingencies that change, discounting contingencies, and economic phenomena. The methodological significance of the contingency language for the behavioral sciences is discussed.

Mechner, F. (2011). Why behavior analysis needs a formal symbolic language for codifying behavioral contingencies. European Journal of Behavioral Analysis, 12, 93-104.

Uses and Functions of a Formal Symbolic Language for Codifying Behavioral Contingencies

This PowerPoint presentation was made at the Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies in Atlanta, Georgia in November 2010.  It is directed at a highly sophisticated audience of leaders in the field of behavior analysis.

Effects of Sequential Aspects of Learning History
F. Mechner & L. Jones, 2011.

In a series of five experiments, a number of similar operant classes, consisting of keystroke sequences on a computer keyboard, were learned and practiced in succession by human subjects. Each experiment consisted of learning sessions spread over several days, separated by either elapsed time or interpolated sessions in which unrelated but similar operant classes were performed. The learning sessions were followed by a final test session in which the subjects were required to choose and perform one from presented sets of three operant classes. The test was designed to be stressful by the imposition of time pressure and certain other contingencies. In the test session, preference was commonly shown for operant classes from the first- and/or last-learned groups -- termed primacy and recency effects respectively -- with minimal preference for the middle groups. Most subjects showed either primacy or recency effects, and relatively few showed both; the subjects that showed mainly recency effects also made the largest number of errors during initial learning of the last set of operant classes. In addition, certain noncriterial characteristics of these operants were measured. These revealed other effects, in particular the association of performance errors with both greater resurgence of older behavior patterns and greater numbers of new behavior patterns.

Mechner, F., & Jones, L. (2011). Effects of sequential aspects of learning history. Mexican Journal of Behavior Analysis, 37, 109.138.

Chess as a Behavioral Model for Cognitive Skill Research: Review of Blindfold Chess by Eliot Hearst and John Knott
F. Mechner, 2010.

This multifaceted work on chess played without sight of the pieces is a sophisticated psychologist's examination of this topic and of chess skill in general, including a detailed and comprehensive historical account. This review builds on Hearst and Knott's assertion that chess can provide a uniquely useful model for research on several issues in the area of cognitive skill and imagery. A key issue is the relationship between viewing a stimulus and mental imagery in the light of blindfold chess masters' consistent reports that they do not use or have images. This review also proposes a methodology for measuring and quantifying an individual's skill shortfall from a theoretical maximum. This methodology, based on a 1951 proposal by Claude Shannon, is applicable to any choice situation in which all of the available choices are known. The proposed "Proficiency" measure reflects the equivalent number of "yes-no" questions that would have been required to arrive at a best choice, considering also the time consumed. As the measure provides a valid and nonarbitrary way to compare different skills and the effects of different independent variables on a given skill, it may have a wide range of applications in cognitive skill research, skill training, and education.
Mechner, F. (2010). Chess as a behavioral model for cognitive skill research: Review of
Blindfold Chess by Eliot Hearst and John Knott. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 94, 373-386.

Anatomy of Deception: A Behavioral Contingency Analysis
F. Mechner, 2010.

Deception, a basic biological function of most forms of life, 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 shows how diverse forms of deception can be categorized according to whether they are disadvantageous to the deceived or not, direct or indirect, based on misperception, non-perception or misprediction, whether the agent of deception is animate or inanimate, and, if animate, whether the deception is intentional or unintentional, gradual, or sudden.

For the PDF of the published paper as it appeared in Behavioral Processes, click here.
Mechner, F. (2010). Anatomy of deception: A behavioral contingency analysis.
Behavioral Processes, 84, 516-520.

Formal Parallels Among Derivatives, Ponzi Processes, and Bubbles: A Behavioral Contingency Analysis
F. Mechner, 2010.

Given that all economic phenomena consist of human behavior, how can behavioral science help us understand them?  We are particularly interested in understanding those 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 seeks to show how the application of behavioral contingency analysis can advance such an understanding.

Analyzing Variable Behavioral Contingencies: Are Certain Complex Skills Homologous With Locomotion?
F. Mechner, 2009.

This is the PDF file of the published paper:
Mechner, F. (2009). Analyzing variable behavioral contingencies: Are certain complex skills homologous with locomotion? Behavioral Processes, 81, 316-321.
It shows 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 to be unrelated actually involve the same underlying behavioral processes.

Behavioral Contingency Analysis
F. Mechner, 2008.

This is the PDF file of the published paper:
Mechner, F. (2008). Behavioral contingency analysis.  Behavioral Processes, 78, 124-144.
A more detailed treatment of the subject of this paper, with an expanded range of examples, is provided in the paper "Applications of the Language for Codifying Behavioral Continencies," available below.

Applications of the Language for Codifying Behavioral Contingencies
F. Mechner, 2008.

This is an expanded version of the paper "Behavioral Contingency Analysis" published in Behavioral Processes (PDF version available above).  It presents a formal language for the codification of behavioral contingencies, and illustrates the application of this language to the analysis of behavioral contingencies in such diverse fields as economics, law, business management, clinical psychology, education, public affairs, games, and military planning.

The paper represents a comprehensive update of the Mechner Notation System presented in “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,” both of which are available for downloading on this website.

Review of "In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind" by Eric R. Kandel
F. Mechner, 2008.

This is the PDF file of the published paper:
Mechner, F. (2008). An invitation to behavior analysts: Review of In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind by Eric R. Kandel. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 90, 235-248.
It discusses the reasons why the study of this book can be valuable to behavior analysts.  It analyses and attempts to bring into perspective criticisms that have been leveled against certain aspects of the language used by some neuroscientists, opportunities for productive collaboration between behavior analysts and neuroscientists, the value of heuristics put forward by Kandel for locating important research problems, and the lessons that can be gleaned from the book for recognizing potentially great achievers and for producing good scientists.

Summary of Neuroscience Information in "In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind" by Eric R. Kandel
F. Mechner, 2008.

This summary of neuroscience information covered in Eric R. Kandel’s book In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind is presented in a dry style for reference purposes only. It omits many of the explanatory details and colorful background and historical information that can be found in the book.

The Effect of Number of Prior Operant Repetitions on Choice Behavior
L. Jones & F. Mechner, 2007.

Human participants in two experiments learned to perform behaviorally equivalent operants consisting of sequences of keystrokes on the computer keyboard.  The independent variables were the number of times operants were practiced, both the ratios of those numbers as well as the absolute numbers.  The dependent variable was the number of times each operant was then chosen in forced-choice tests.

Number of Prior Repetitions of Operants, and Resurgence
F. Mechner & L. Jones, 2001.

In a series of nine experiments, human participants typed non-word sequences of letters on a computer keyboard.  Each such operant contained criterial (mandated) and noncriterial (discretionary) keystrokes.  Participants learned several unique operants of this type, each defined by a different criterial keystroke pattern.  Experiments consisted of several learning sessions and a final "test" session.  The objective was to determine the effect of varying the number of repetitions required for each operant during the learning sessions on the relative emission frequency of those operants during the test session, and on the resurgence characteristics of their noncriterial keystrokes.

Learning and Practicing Skilled Performance.
F. Mechner, 1994. The Mechner Foundation website.

This book develops a theory and technology of skilled performance, based on research in psychology and physiology. Examples are drawn from various performance disciplines, with special emphasis on pianism. It is 101 pages in length and can be downloaded.

The Revealed Operant: A Way to Study the Characteristics of Individual Occurrences of Operant Responses
F. Mechner, et al., 1994. Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies Monograph Series.

The "revealed operant" is intended as a laboratory research model of any operant response. Its 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. DOWNLOAD

What Are the Effects of Reinforcer Presentations?
F. Mechner, 1994. Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies Monograph Series.

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 is currently conducting a research program to address this issue experimentally, using shaping procedures for various types of revealed operants. DOWNLOAD

Methodological Points for Behavioral Scientists
F. Mechner, 1993. The Mechner Foundation website.

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. DOWNLOAD

History in the Making: A Conversation with Francis Mechner, Founder of Basic Systems
Learning International Exchange, 1985.

This 1985 interview of Dr. Mechner tells the story of his development of what is presumably the most widely-used training system of all time.

A New Approach to Programmed Instruction
F. Mechner, 1977. The Mechner Foundation website.

Programmed instruction was defined in the early 1960s as using active response by the learner, immediate confirmation of correct responses, and successive approximations towards the knowledge to be learned. This paper, written in 1977, proposes some newer and presumably more effective techniques of programmed instruction and the theoretical justification of those techniques. DOWNLOAD

Testimony of Dr. Francis Mechner, President of UEC, Inc., before the Senate Finance Committee
F. Mechner, 1971.

When hearings were being held for the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971, sponsored by Senator Walter Mondale and Congressman John Brademas, Dr. Mechner was invited to testify on Early Childhood Development and Educational Day Care before the Senate Finance Committee.  His testimony, downloadable by clicking the link above, is contained in the Congressional Record for the 92nd Congress, September 1971.  The Act was passed by both houses of Congress in 1971 and vetoed by President Nixon in 1972.

The Contingency as an Independent Variable of Social Interaction
K. Weingarten & F. Mechner, 1966. T. Verhave (Ed.), Readings in the experimental analysis of behavior.

This paper shows how the Mechner notation system can be applied to behavioral contingencies that involve the interactions of two or more individuals in such dynamics as cooperation, competition (both for individuals and groups) economic interactions, blackmail, flattery, insults, etc. DOWNLOAD


Mechner's involvements with music have included piano performance, composition, study and analysis of certain piano pieces in the classical repertory, and the theory and technology of effective practicing.

The 2005 Mechner Piano Recital (tracks below) illustrates Mechner's approach to the performance of seven pieces from the classical piano repertory.  To download a track (instead of opening a new window to play it online), right click on its name and select "Save Link As...".

1. Introduction to Turkish Rondo
2. Mozart: Turkish Rondo from Sonata in A
3. Introduction to Sonata Pathetique
4. Beethoven: Sonata Pathetique, 2nd Movement
5. Introduction to Minuet from French Suite
6. Bach: Minuet from French Suite in B Minor
7. Introduction to Fantasy Impromptu
8. Chopin: Fantasy Impromptu
9. Introduction to Waltz in E Minor
10. Chopin: Waltz in E Minor
11. Introduction to Impromptu in E Flat
12. Schubert: Impromptu in E Flat
13. Introduction to Nocturne in C Sharp Minor
14. Chopin: Nocturne in C Sharp Minor

In the download "Learning and Practicing Skilled Performance" (in Documents, above), the general principles and technology presented are based on piano learning and practicing, and make frequent references to the piano pedagogy literature.

Mechner composed the soundtracks for two of his son Jordan Mechner's best-selling computer games -- Karateka, published in 1984, and the original (1989-1991) versions of the Prince of Persia games.  Midi files of some of the themes from the original Prince of Persia are available below (to download a track, right click on its name and select "Save Link As...").



Revealed Operant using Keystrokes

Software for designing and programming experiments using a revealed operant that consists of sequences of keystrokes on a computer keyboard. This software, developed by David A. Mechner, functions like a menu for the design of experiments that use this type of revealed operant. The experimenter can specify dozens of parameters for a wide range of experiments.

System requirements: Windows 95 or newer, VGA monitor. DOWNLOAD

Revealed Operant using Graphics Tablet

This software, developed by Martin Silbernagl, is used to design and program experiments using a revealed operant that consists of drawing lines on a graphics tablet. Available parameters include the length and slope of the drawn lines, the speed with which they are drawn, and the pressure applied to the stylus. The software can be used to design a wide variety of experiments that use this type of operant.

System requirements: Windows 95 or newer, VGA monitor. DOWNLOAD