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Association for Behavior Analysis International

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43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #500A
CE Offered: BACB
Aesthetics and Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 29, 2017
4:00 PM–5:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Capitol Ballroom 5-7
Area: PCH/CSS; Domain: Theory
CE Instructor: Peter R. Killeen, Ph.D.
Chair: Peter R. Killeen (Arizona State University)
Discussant: Peter R. Killeen (Arizona State University)
Abstract: Behavior analysts generally lack vocabulary to discuss aesthetic properties of artistic aesthetic stimuli and have to develop strategies for analyzing and synthesizing artistic information. Perhaps there are phylogenetic reasons why we find some things beautiful, but what explains acquired tastes. Palmer will explore the hypothesis that “aesthetic responses” entail Skinner’s concepts of multiple control, the “probe,” and saltations in response strength. Catania argues that, contingencies of three terms have operated throughout artistic creation and appreciation, and variations have been a major component in the evolution of the arts. Hineline explores patterns – spatial, temporal, sequential and coherence. While parsimony of mathematical arguments can make them elegant if they are completely coherent, musical sequences engage us by perturbing coherent patterns that have been established by histories of exposure. How do we systematically study the functions of artistic, aesthetic stimuli? Thompson concludes by touching on a. Artistic establishing operations which determine what creations will be more or less reinforcing; b. Discriminative Stimuli. C. Conditional Discriminative Stimuli that will facilitate the effectiveness of other discriminative stimuli in therapy, public health or education), and d. Artistic creation as reinforcing activities. Sponsored in part by the Behavior Analysis and the Arts SIG.
Instruction Level: Basic
Aesthetic Behavior: Creating and Appreciating Art
A. CHARLES CATANIA (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Abstract: Painting and photography involve visual media; music involves sound; gastronomy involves taste. But not all arts are defined by their media: literature and poetry can be either listened to or read. In some arts different media come together, as when opera combines music and libretto and costumes and stage settings. All arts involve audiences, even if only the artists themselves in the act of creation or at later times. Art can be cumulative, as when playwrights set the occasion for acting and set design and stagecraft and so on; the responses they engender eventually come together as a performance to which audiences respond. Contingencies of three terms and more have operated throughout artistic creation and appreciation, and variations have been a major component in the evolution of the arts. We will illustrate these points with examples, to show how a behavior analytic approach can contribute to the study of aesthetics. Examples will include some derived from Skinner (poetry and other verbal behavior, his clavichord, his psychology of design), and others from contributors to this symposium (singing, painting, narrative).
Aesthetics in Appreciation and Explanation
PHILIP N. HINELINE (Temple University - Emeritus)
Abstract: What kinds of arrangements – of contingencies as well as of stimuli – do we choose to live with? What kinds of explanations do we accept? As addressed to pragmatic arrangements, whether of contingencies or of objects, one consideration concerns precision and predictability vs. variation and unpredictability ; precision is appropriately valued, but when it is excessively regulated it can be ugly. Patterns – spatial, temporal, sequential -- raise the relevance of coherence, and departures therefrom. While parsimony of purely mathematical arguments can make them elegant only if they are completely coherent, musical sequences engage us by perturbing coherent patterns that have been established by histories of exposure. Verbal stories, while less easily specified than melodies or sequences of equations, can lend a sort of coherence to sequences of events. Indeed, the coherence of a theoretical narrative can obscure its inadequacy (as illustrated by conventional avoidance theory). Coherence that arises out of familiarity is a potent influence, perhaps second only to generality, in affecting whether we accept an explanation.
The Role of Multiple Control and Response Strength in Aesthetics
DAVID C. PALMER (Smith College)
Abstract: Perhaps there are phylogenetic reasons why we find some things beautiful, but what explains acquired tastes? I will explore the hypothesis that “aesthetic responses” entail Skinner’s concepts of multiple control, the “probe,” and saltations in response strength. We appreciate most those stimuli that evoke behavior that was already at partial strength, typically as the consequence of the combined effect of a panorama of other stimuli. We find texts incomprehensible when relevant responses have little strength and boring when relevant responses are at high strength. Poetry is commonly judged more beautiful than prose because it exploits multiple sources of control—cadence, rhyme, thematic relations—to strengthen an otherwise weak response. When the relevant textual stimulus is encountered, the jump in response strength is therefore considerable and stands out against the background of other textual responses. An analogous account can be offered for art, music, dance, and sport. Experience in a domain greatly enriches the web of multiple controlling variables, and the connoisseur finds beauty in subtleties to which the rest of us are insensitive. Thus the novice enjoys the thumping rhythms of the poetry of Poe, while the literary critic finds beauty in the esoteric, multi-layered literary allusions of James Joyce.
Behavioral Functions of Aesthetic Arts
TRAVIS THOMPSON (University of Minnesota)
Abstract: The arts have been ubiquitous historically, but behavior analysts lack vocabulary to discuss aesthetic properties of such stimuli and strategies for analyzing and synthesizing artistic information. Artifacts or performances are created by their makers with aesthetic interest, often surpassing those of everyday objects, in virtually every known culture. Arts serve cultural, political, educational and religious purposes. Some artistic products serve mainly ceremonial or propaganda functions rather than aesthetic. Institutions in some cultures, create and sustain standards of aesthetic interest often apart from practical, ceremonial, or religious use (museums, orchestras, universities, publishers, art schools). Artistic materials with aesthetic interest pose scientific Questions: 1. What does it mean that some people with minimal language and significant disabilities produce remarkable art? 2. How are artistic aesthetic preferences established? 3. What roles do artistic stimuli play in human interventions (e.g. medicine/health care, psychological and behavioral) 4. How do we systematically study the functions of artistic stimuli: a. Establishing Operations: Determining what things will be more or less reinforcing under specific circumstances; b. Discriminative Stimuli: set the occasion for responding. C. Conditional Discriminative Stimuli: will facilitate the effectiveness of other discriminative stimuli (e.g. in therapy, public health or education), and d. Artistic creation as reinforcing activities.
 

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