The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 15–28 | Cite as

The aesthetics of behavioral arrangements

  • Philip N. Hineline


With their origins in scientific validation, behavior-analytic applications have understandably been developed with an engineering rather than a crafting orientation. Nevertheless, traditions of craftsmanship can be instructive for devising aesthetically pleasing arrangements—arrangements that people will try, and having tried, will choose to continue living with. Pye (1968) provides suggestions for this, particularly through his distinctions between workmanship of risk versus workmanship of certainty, and the mating of functional precision with effective or otherwise pleasing variability. Close examination of woodworking tools as well as antique machines offers instructive analogues that show, for instance, that misplaced precision can be dysfunctional when precision is not essential to a design. Variability should be allowed or even encouraged. Thus, in the design of behavioral contingencies as well as of practical or purely aesthetic objects, ‘‘precise versus variable’’ is not necessarily a distinction between good and bad. More generally, behavior analysts would do well to look beyond their technical experience for ways to improve the aesthetics of contingency design while continuing to understand the resulting innovations in relation to behavior-analytic principles.

Key word

aesthetics acceptability of behavioral techniques precision variability workmanship 


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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