Semester of Graduation

August 2023


Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (MALA)

Document Type



This paper explores the role of behavioral research in understanding the complexity and relevance of creativity. A brief history of the liberal arts and its current application is followed by a discussion of the importance of variability in generating novel and diverse responses, challenging the notion that creativity is solely a product of innate talent. The effects of reinforcement on variability, and how it relates to a complex relationship between reinforcement and the probability of variable responding leads to a discussion of how the combination of previously trained behaviors can lead to creative problem-solving, emphasizing the role of combinatory behavior processes in producing novel and useful performances. Finally, behavioral research findings are related to the liberal arts paradigm in higher education, suggesting that a broad base of knowledge and interdisciplinary approaches are essential for fostering creativity and preparing students for the future. By embracing behavior analytic insights such as generative learning principles, institutions can better equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in an uncertain and rapidly changing world.



Committee Chair

Dr. Jeanne Donaldson