Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Panel #212
Behavioral Analyses of Aesthetic Reactions
Sunday, May 26, 2019
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Swissôtel, Lucerne Ballroom Level, Lucerne 3
Area: PCH/VRB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Francis Mechner (The Mechner Foundation)
PHILIP N. HINELINE (Temple University - Emeritus)
TRAVIS THOMPSON (University of Minnesota)
Abstract: The topic of aesthetics has traditionally received attention primarily from philosophers and cognoscenti of the arts. Only recently has it received serious attention from behavioral scientists. The panel session’s participants, all of whom have published on aesthetics and the arts, will present and discuss their respective perspectives on the topic. When Travis Thompson launched ABAI’s special interest group BAARTS (Behavior Analysis of the Arts), some years ago, he invited Francis Mechner to write an article regarding his work on the “Behavioral and Biological Analysis of Aesthetics.” Jack Marr, himself a recognized scholar in the arts and creativity, instigated, edited, and wrote the introduction for a special 2018 issue of The Psychological Record that featured commentaries on Mechner’s article by nine eminent behavioral scientists, including Travis Thompson and Philip Hineline—himself a musician, who sees aesthetic issues in tools and workmanship as well as in storytelling. Mechner will start the discussion by stating how the commentaries led him to a more parsimonious theory of aesthetics—one that suggests, in essence, that aesthetic reactions occur when the operant effect of a synergetic interaction (often involving a concept manipulation with an arousing or instructional effect) becomes “spiked” with added Pavlovian conditioned stimulus functionalities that elicit affective respondents.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Aesthetic Coherence, Aesthetics Theory, Creativity, Respondent Conditioning



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