Below are PDFs of some of the Mechner Foundation's documents and publications in educational innovation, basic research, and other areas.


The Behavioral Architecture and Biological Utility of Aesthetic Reactions

F. Mechner, 2019

This is the last of Mechner’s four articles on the topic of aesthetics. It builds on the other three and elaborates on the following issues: the conditions in which aesthetic reactions occur, their construction, their behavioral and biological origins, and the useful functions they perform in societies and cultures. It extends the analysis of aesthetics into the interpersonal and socio-cultural domains. It explores the role aesthetic sensibilities may have played in the evolution of language, inquiry skills, and manipulation of the concept repertoire. It also examines the tendency to look for and find the causes of events in the external environment rather than in one’s own learned perceptions based on one’s idiosyncratic history, resulting in a vast array of human illusions and biases.

A Naturalistic and Behavioral Theory of Aesthetics

F. Mechner, 2019

This article was invited and published in March 2019 by The Polish Journal of Aesthetics. It presents a theory, based in part on the earlier articles on aesthetics, as to how aesthetic reactions form and the roles they play in the evolution of human civilization.

A Behavioral and Biological Analysis of Aesthetics: Implications for Research and Applications

F. Mechner, 2018

This article approaches aesthetics from non-traditional directions—those of empirical naturalism and experimental science. The work was initiated at Columbia University in the 1950s and has continued through 2017.  You may also access the article on the Psychological Record’s website at

The Psychological Record’s guest editors, Marcus J. Marr and Travis Thompson, invited 9 distinguished behavioral scientists to write commentaries on the article. These commentaries, with a response by the author, were published in a special issue of the journal.

Mechner’s Reply to the Commentaries on His Article, “A Behavioral and Biological Analysis of Aesthetics”

F. Mechner, 2018

This article, along with M. Jackson Marr’s introduction to this issue of The Psychological Record, was Mechner’s response to the nine commentaries on the original article A Behavioral and Biological Analysis of Aesthetics.

Why Behavior Analysis Needs a Formal Symbolic Language for Codifying Behavioral Contingencies

F. Mechner, 2011

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.

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

F. Mechner, 2010

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.

Anatomy of Deception: A Behavioral Contingency Analysis

F. Mechner, 2010

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.

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 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.

Analyzing Variable Behavioral Contingencies: Are Certain Complex Skills Homologous with Locomotion?

F. Mechner, 2009

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.

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, described above.

Behavioral Contingency Analysis

F. Mechner, 2008

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: 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. 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.

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 has conducted a research program to address this issue experimentally, using shaping procedures for various types of revealed operants.

Methodological Points for Behavioral Scientists

F. Mechner, 1993

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.

Remarks Regarding Charles Catania’s 1981 Discussion Article “The Flight from Experimental Analysis”

F. Mechner, 2012

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.