A Clinicians view of Reorganization & some simul questions

[From Dick Robertson] (941210l.2055CST)
While picking up tennis balls the other day I got to reflecting on the
discussion of reorganization that has cropped up again on the net, and I
got an insight about how reorganization looks from a clinician's
perspective that I would like to contribute to the discussion.

The thought I had seemed like a possible answer to a question that has
bothered me on and off about reorganization. That is the question of why
real-life reorganization - as seen in psychotherapy - seems to need a re-
calling of some specific experience with some kind of emotional expression
for a big change to occur. This observation seems widely accepted by
clinicians of many, in not all, schools.

Here's a made-up generic example, if it's not clear what I am talking
about. A person might repeatedly say something like, "I often have
something I want to say in a group discussion, but I can't get myself to
say it...and I'm sure it's because my father used to yell, `shutup,
children are to be seen and not heard,' when I would speak up as a kid."
When "insights" like that are spoken in a calm, intellectual way, we
clinicians don't ordinarily expect any change in behavior. But, if on some
occasion of discussing that issue s/he remembers a particular incident, and
gets red in the face and starts to cry or yell or swear, saying, "I hate it
that he did that to me," or the like, THEN we expect to hear that s/he did
speak up at some soon-after meeting.

It was this kind of thought that tied up with another question that has
bothered me on and off - the question, "Does it really take an error in the
intrinsic system to trigger reorganization?" The logic of that as spelled
out in BCP has always seemed persuasive to me, and I have used the example
of the non-swimmer getting knocked into deep water as a classic
illustration when teaching HPCT. But there are other reorganizations of
behavior - like the one about becoming assertive, on the part of someone
who never was before - that seem more problematic. The "drown or swim"
behavior change seems clearly a true reorganization, and not just a
transfer of already-existing control capacities to a new area. But, I
couldn't see how something like speaking up in public would involve the
intrinsic system until this question merged with the one above.

My two questions came together like this. If in the origianl traumatic
incident the person tensed up in order to prevent an emotional expression,
that DID involve the intrinsic system. Probably there was a spurt of
adrenalin, the heart might have slowed or speeded up, there was
vasodilation and constriction and various stress hormones were secreted.
And then there was reorganization. The individual developed a new way of
controlling ("holding his tongue") in situations where he had controlled in
a way that we would call assertive. Likewise, a person in therapy,
committed to undo inhibitions and tensions, and reminded - during self
exploration - of that/those critical initial experience(s), recalls the
feelings and once more has intrinsic error involvement --> another
reorganization. Not every reorganization results in the most desirable
behavior, of course. And that leads to another speculation.

In recent years there has been some curiosity among developmental
psychologists, etc. about why it is that in tremendously stressful
environments some individuals freak out and go crazy, others become
criminals and still others develop tremendous resourcefulness and
resiliency. You probably are aware that there is research going on to tie
these differences to genetic contributions, and maybe there is something to
that. But, it strikes me that a much more parsimonious hypothesis would be
that such a variety of outcomes is just what you would expect from the
picture of reorganization presented in BCP.

Now the bottom line of all this for me is to wonder whether we collectively
(i.e. especially you modellers) see anything here that can be simulated
with what you can do at present. As I have watched the evolution of
simecoli into a more intelligent animal - and the debate about the point at
which he was demonstrating reorganization as compared with simple
adaptation - I have begun wondering how far that evolution could be carried
on the computer. It seems to me that in a development where he must change
certain of his control parameters or starve, we would have an analog of an
intrinsic/reorg system. I am unclear at this point whether the latest
models can have this feature. Is there a timed function during which he
must be on target at a high density zone for a minimum amount of times/a
critical period or he extinguishes? If not, could it be built? Would a
randomized influx of different parameters (I'm at a loss for adequate
terminology) show anything about the difference between pure adaptation
(which I think is modeled by the tumbling protocol) and real
reorganization? It seems to me that Rick's original program required some
(minor ?) reorganization by the human operator. That is, some students
banged away enthusiastically on the spacebar, creating a lot of tumbles;
but they had a lot of trouble inhibiting the impulse to touch the spacebar
when it was going in the right direction. IS that a good example of reorg.
or just a higher level of adaptation?

I'll offer one answer to that from my own study with the "Powers game," (I
have called it that since Bill instrumented the first and second versions
of the experiment, though he said he got the game idea from someone else,
whom I can't recall) that I described in my Perceptual and Motor Skills
article. A lot of subjects would get stuck trying different sequences
("adaptation," "trial and error," and would have to be nudged by a question
like, "Do you notice that the machine is still winning, maybe what you are
doing isn't really working." At that point many of them would show some
emotion, so according to my new insight, that WOULD indicate some intrinsic
error. What followed would then be reorganization? Some would hit on the
true solution of anticipating. Some would get mad enough to say they quit.
Some would stubbornly ignore me and keep doing what they were, etc.

Now could there be counterparts of that in the latest ecoli sim?

A final thought. Among clinicians who talk about the necessity of
personality reorganization for real psychotherapy (and have never heard of
PCT) it is generally believed that it can be triggered when what the person
typically does no longer is getting satisfying results. At that point
there usually must be a lot of Dis-organization before reorganization
becomes apparent. This disorganization is also called irrational or
emotional behavior. What would be a simulation counterpart of that?
                                     Best, Dick R.

[Martin Taylor 941213 20:15]

Dick Robertson (941210l.2055CST)

A fascinating posting.

A final thought. Among clinicians who talk about the necessity of
personality reorganization for real psychotherapy (and have never heard of
PCT) it is generally believed that it can be triggered when what the person
typically does no longer is getting satisfying results. At that point
there usually must be a lot of Dis-organization before reorganization
becomes apparent. This disorganization is also called irrational or
emotional behavior. What would be a simulation counterpart of that?

There is a concept that I have mentioned once or twice on the net, and
discussed with Bill P in Durango 93, that I call "The Bomb in the Hierarchy."
It may be relevant.

The possible existence of a Bomb depends on there being multiple levels
in the control hierarchy. Let's think of an ECU at level N. It controls
its perception by a single valued output that contributes to several
different reference signals at level N-1. These ECUs at level N-1 are
the immediate means by which the ECU at level N controls its perception.
But not all of those lower ECUs necessarily are controlling at any moment,
and if they are, not all may be sucessfully controlling (those that aren't
may be at saturation values, or drifting around with zero effective gain
at the moment).

So long as the net effect of the ECUs at level N-1 is to provide sufficient
negative loop gain for the ECU at level N, all is well. But the environment
may change--a normally open door may be locked, a road may become icy--and
some of the level N-1 ECUs might possibly lose control, their own loop
gains becoming positive, if only momentarily. (This cannot happen in a
linear environment, to be sure). The ECU of interest, the one at level N,
may find itself thereby losing control, its loop gain possibly going
positive; and ECUs at level N+1, that it supports, might also lose control.

The observable effect looks like "Dis-organization"; the organism does, at
several levels, things that do not seem to advance its ends, and indeed
that is what is happening internally. I see a temper tantrum as an example.
It is "irrational behaviour," in that the acts make no sense in getting
what the actor wants.

The loss of control is like an avalanche, which might be very small,
being confined to one ECU, or which might propagate midely up -- and down --
the levels. How down? An ECU going out of control produces increasing
output, which might drive the reference signals for lower ECUs into a range
where the nonlinearities of the environment shift their loop gains into
the positive range.

A major avalanche, or Bomb explosion would surely look like "irrational
behaviour" and might quite possibly connect with emotion. (I don't have
any fixed view on what "emotion" is, in PCT terms, but I assume that it
is normally associated with shifts in the levels of intrinsic chemical
variables, and thus related to reorganization. And I have read various
takes on it in the PCT writings:-)

If some intrinsic variables are related simply to globalized error in the
main hierarchy, then the Bomb should be a major factor in reorganization.
It is triggered through environmental variation, since by definition when
perceptions are nicely under control in an environment, all the feedback
loops have negative gain. In that stable environment, reorganization has
done its job. But potential Bombs may remain, to be triggered when the
environment changes, and new ways have to be used to retain control of
higher-level perceptions.

No, I haven't simulated the Bomb, and I am open to the standard criticism
that it might not work the way I say. But it looks inevitable to me, as
I understand the nature of hierarchic control and of reorganization. It
does depend on the environment being nonlinear, and probably sufficiently
nonlinear to have bifurcations (e.g. there is no intermediate state between
a door being locked and the same door being unlocked, or between a cup
standing on a table and the cup falling off and spilling on the floor).
Real environments in which we must learn to control do have these kinds
of nonlinearity.

Maybe this relates to what Dick was talking about in psychotherapy.