Below are PDFs of some of the Mechner Foundation's documents and publications in educational innovation, basic research, and other areas.
All operant behaviors have multiple characteristics in addition to those criterial for reinforcement, and variation occurs across all. In two experiments humans performed a revealed operant response of 14 or more keystrokes. The first and last were mandated, while the middle 12 (or more) were allowed to vary. There were significant differences in variability among participants, as well as systematic effects of the two different experimental designs. Despite not being reinforced, variability was high. There was systematic topographic bias both for and against letter keys in the center of the keyboard. Furthermore, there were also correlations between measures of variability and of bias.
In the first experiment described in this paper, in which participants typed non-word sequences of letters on the computer keyboard, systematic bias for certain operants over others—strong enough to override the programmed independent variable of the study—was observed. A second experiment was then designed to remove this bias by replacing the letters on the keyboard with symbols. However, more systematic operant bias was observed in Experiment 2 than previously in Experiment 1. Ergonomic analysis of the specific keystrokes making up operants for which bias was observed in Experiment 2 points to three specific and quantifiable kinesthetic biases affecting human typing behavior.
This article reports five experiments on the topic of resurgence performed in the Foundation’s laboratory over a period of several years. It defines the concept of resurgence broadly as reappearance of behavior that occurred earlier in the individual’s history but not recently, and discusses the research implications of this broader definition. The methodology employed is novel in its ability to reveal differential effects on the criterial and non-criterial features of the operants studied. [Please note that this article replaces the unpublished paper Mechner, F., & Jones, L. D. (2001). Number of prior repetitions of operants, and resurgence.]
Also available at: Mechner, F., & Jones, L. D. (2015). Effects of repetition frequency on operant strength and resurgence of non-criterial features of operants. Mexican Journal of Behavior Analysis, 41, 63-83.
The design of any experiment involving more than one operant (all studies of choice, for example) requires the operants used to be both functionally equivalent and neutral for the participants prior to the experiment. In a series of three studies on learning history variables, persistent systematic biases were observed; these were associated both with the hand motions involved in executing each operant and with the operant’s visual aspects. This type of finding proves to be general and has implications for any behavior research that assumes equivalence among operants.
In a series of 5 experiments, similar keystroke sequences on a computer keyboard were learned and practiced by human subjects. Each experiment consisted of learning sessions followed by a final test session in which the subjects were required to choose and perform one from offered sets of three. In the test session, most subjects showed either primacy or recency effects, and relatively few showed both. The paper discusses the implications of these results for resurgence effects.
Also available at: Mechner, F., & Jones, L. D. (2011). Effects of sequential aspects of learning history. Mexican Journal of Behavior Analysis, 37, 109-138.
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.
This is the first experimental research study after the publication of Mechner’s 1994 monograph, The Revealed Operant: A Way to Study the Characteristics of individual occurrences of operant responses, that demonstrated how the “revealed operant” preparation can be used to study the effects of several standard independent variables on resurgence and on noncriterial properties of operant occurrences in human participants. The study was performed at the University of North Texas by Mechner and UNT graduate students, and includes related pigeon data from Anthony Nevin’s laboratory.