A thought experiment

I have started reading _Dialogues Concerning Two Life Sciences_ and find Dag's basic control
diagrams in the preface very helpful. I want to be sure that I understand their implications.
Toward that end I offer the following thought experiment. (I hope Rick will excuse me for casting
him in the role of the experimenter. Obviously any misunderstandings are solely my own.)

Rick conjectures that I, Bruce, am controlling the perception "No dish of ice cream will sit on the
table in front of me for longer than ten minutes." Rick decides to disturb this controlled
perception by placing a dish of ice cream in front of me. Just as he predicted, I proceed to eat the
ice cream, leaving an empty dish.

Is this description satisfactory from a PCT perspective? Does my analysis provide a proper PCT
explanation for my behavior?

Thanks,

Bruce

[From Fred Nickols (2010.07.20.1956 EDT)]

Well, from my perspective, your example doesn't provide a proper PCT
explanation. It could be the case that you are controlling some other
perception (e.g., you're just plain hungry and the ice cream happened to be
handy). But then I have a limited grasp of all this so I'm happy to wait
and see what others have to say - especially Rick and Bill P.

Fred Nickols

···

-----Original Message-----
From: Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet)
[mailto:CSGNET@LISTSERV.ILLINOIS.EDU] On Behalf Of Bruce Gregory
Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 5:49 PM
To: CSGNET@LISTSERV.ILLINOIS.EDU
Subject: A thought experiment

I have started reading _Dialogues Concerning Two Life Sciences_ and find
Dag's basic control
diagrams in the preface very helpful. I want to be sure that I understand
their implications.
Toward that end I offer the following thought experiment. (I hope Rick will
excuse me for casting
him in the role of the experimenter. Obviously any misunderstandings are
solely my own.)

Rick conjectures that I, Bruce, am controlling the perception "No dish of
ice cream will sit on the
table in front of me for longer than ten minutes." Rick decides to disturb
this controlled
perception by placing a dish of ice cream in front of me. Just as he
predicted, I proceed to eat the
ice cream, leaving an empty dish.

Is this description satisfactory from a PCT perspective? Does my analysis
provide a proper PCT
explanation for my behavior?

Thanks,

Bruce

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.07.20 2125 EDT)]

[From Fred Nickols (2010.07.20.1956 EDT)]

Well, from my perspective, your example doesn't provide a proper PCT
explanation. It could be the case that you are controlling some other
perception (e.g., you're just plain hungry and the ice cream happened to be
handy). But then I have a limited grasp of all this so I'm happy to wait
and see what others have to say - especially Rick and Bill P.

If I understand your point, a proper PCT explanation requires a test for all possible controlled perceptions. So perhaps my example simply shows that Rick cannot rule out his hypothesis, but he can only accept it tentatively pending completion of a potentially infinite (?) set of alternate possibilities.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (2010.07.21.2040 MDT)]

BG: Rick conjectures that I, Bruce, am controlling the perception "No dish of ice cream will sit on the table in front of me for longer than ten minutes." Rick decides to disturb this controlled perception by placing a dish of ice cream in front of me. Just as he predicted, I proceed to eat the ice cream, leaving an empty dish.

Is this description satisfactory from a PCT perspective? Does my analysis provide a proper PCT explanation for my behavior?

The short answer to both questions is no.

I can't imagine why Rick would start making random guesses about what you control without any observations of your normal behavior. I wouldn't. Shame on Rick. I would watch what you do and try to see what your intention or objective was in each case, largely by seeing how your behavior changes when there are disturbances, and what is thereby kept from changing. Eventually I might hazard a guess as to something you were trying to control, based on what I've seen so far and the tests I've applied.

So I would say that the conjecture would be baseless, unrelated to any observation, and therefore useless. Not the sort of thing I try to do with PCT. It's also extremely complex when you start thinking about the tests that would be needed. "No [type of container] bearing [type of food] will remain [statement of relationship to me] for [longer, less than, approximately] [length of time interval]." Since a mechanism for removing the dish, or the ice cream, or changing your own position, is not mentioned, that also introduces numerous possible tests: there are many possible reasons why the dish might not remain in front of you, or just the ice cream. The conjecture as worded doesn't mention what might cause the dish or the ice cream to be removed -- nothing is said about eating either one.

Anyway, PCT is a theory of organization, and to apply it you need some sort of data to explain with the theory. You don't just come up with explanations and propose them out of the blue.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Rick Marken (2010.07.20.2120)]

Bill Powers (2010.07.21.2040 MDT)--

I can't imagine why Rick would start making random guesses about what you
control without any observations of your normal behavior. I wouldn't. Shame
on Rick.

That Rick! What a schmuck.

Have a nice, safe, comfortable trip, Bill.

Love

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken PhD
rsmarken@gmail.com
www.mindreadings.com

[From Bill Powers (2010.07.21.0235 MDT)]

Rick Marken (2010.07.20.2120) --

BP earlier: I can't imagine why Rick would start making random guesses about what you control without any observations of your normal behavior. I wouldn't. Shame on Rick.

That Rick! What a schmuck.

Have a nice, safe, comfortable trip, Bill.

I wish you were going to the meeting too. We've come a long way together and never think I've forgotten that.

I'm just about on British summer time now. Leaving tonight at 8:00 PM from Denver, arriving Heathrow airport at about noon local time, then Manchester about 2:30.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.07.21.0642 EDT)]

[From Bill Powers (2010.07.21.2040 MDT)]

Anyway, PCT is a theory of organization, and to apply it you need some sort of data to explain with the theory. You don't just come up with explanations and propose them out of the blue.

BG: Well taken. Let me amend my proposal to include the statement that on several occasions Rick has seen a dish of ice cream put in front of me and on each of these occasions he observed that I ate the ice cream.

Bruce

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.07.21.0647 EDT)]

[From Rick Marken (2010.07.20.2120)]

Bill Powers (2010.07.21.2040 MDT)--

I can't imagine why Rick would start making random guesses about what you
control without any observations of your normal behavior. I wouldn't. Shame
on Rick.

That Rick! What a schmuck.

Just because he often behaves like a schmuck, I would not be so judgmental. I have augmented my statement of the problem to make Rick appear less of a schmuck.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (2010.07.21.0500 MDT)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.07.21.0642 EDT)]

If you're wondering why I'm writing at such strange hours, it's because I've been trying to get on British time. I got up at 02:15 this morning, or 9:15 their time.

BP earlier: Anyway, PCT is a theory of organization, and to apply it you need some sort of data to explain with the theory. You don't just come up with explanations and propose them out of the blue.

BG: Well taken. Let me amend my proposal to include the statement that on several occasions Rick has seen a dish of ice cream put in front of me and on each of these occasions he observed that I ate the ice cream.

Did he speak to you, ask any questions, at any of those times? For example, he might have asked, " Do you generally eat ice cream right away whenever anyone puts it in front of you?" You might have replied, "Yes, usually, if it's not too soon before dinner. I like ice cream while it's not runny, so I usually eat it right away, before it can start melting." Ah, so part of it starts to make sense. The 'right away' part isn't greed, it's a preference for non-melted-ness. But what about the "whenever?" So Rick would ask, "What if people gave you a pint of ice cream every 15 minutes all day long, except right before dinner?" To which, if you're not obese, you would probably reply, "Oh, I suppose I'd get tired of it after the first few, and I certainly wouldn't want to eat a pint every time -- that would be kind of gross."

Of course Rick would follow up that information by testing to see if it's accurate or is just a pose to impress others. But if the situation were propitious, more could be discovered by asking dumb questions. For example, "Why would eating a pint every fifteen minutes be gross? What's gross about it?" and "If it's that gross, why do you eat ice cream at all?"

And so on. Looking for conflicts, higher-level perceptions, etc.. Of course Rick would have to be very interested in this person's consumption of ice cream to go that far, or the person would have had to ask for help with his ice cream habit.

As to parlor tricks like coming up with magical interpretations of secret reasons for doing things, I'm sure Rick isn't anywhere near the degree of schmuckicity needed for stooping to that sort of thing.

Aren't you glad you asked? You learned a new word.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.07.21.0744 EDT)]

[From Bill Powers (2010.07.21.0500 MDT)]

Did he speak to you, ask any questions, at any of those times? For example, he might have asked, " Do you generally eat ice cream right away whenever anyone puts it in front of you?" You might have replied, "Yes, usually, if it's not too soon before dinner. I like ice cream while it's not runny, so I usually eat it right away, before it can start melting." Ah, so part of it starts to make sense. The 'right away' part isn't greed, it's a preference for non-melted-ness. But what about the "whenever?" So Rick would ask, "What if people gave you a pint of ice cream every 15 minutes all day long, except right before dinner?" To which, if you're not obese, you would probably reply, "Oh, I suppose I'd get tired of it after the first few, and I certainly wouldn't want to eat a pint every time -- that would be kind of gross."

Of course Rick would follow up that information by testing to see if it's accurate or is just a pose to impress others. But if the situation were propitious, more could be discovered by asking dumb questions. For example, "Why would eating a pint every fifteen minutes be gross? What's gross about it?" and "If it's that gross, why do you eat ice cream at all?"

And so on. Looking for conflicts, higher-level perceptions, etc.. Of course Rick would have to be very interested in this person's consumption of ice cream to go that far, or the person would have had to ask for help with his ice cream habit.

As to parlor tricks like coming up with magical interpretations of secret reasons for doing things, I'm sure Rick isn't anywhere near the degree of schmuckicity needed for stooping to that sort of thing.

Aren't you glad you asked? You learned a new word.

I am beginning to understand why PCT has had such a hard time impacting main stream psychology. (Also why tracking experiments are the PCT mainstay.)

Thanks,

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (2010.07.21.0550 MDT)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.07.21.0744 EDT) --

I am beginning to understand why PCT has had such a hard time impacting main stream psychology.

No, you're not.

(Also why tracking experiments are the PCT mainstay.)

They aren't.

I thought you said goodbye. Did you just have more hostility and nastiness that you had neglected to deliver the last time?

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.07.21.0758 EDT)]

[From Bill Powers (2010.07.21.0550 MDT)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.07.21.0744 EDT) --

I am beginning to understand why PCT has had such a hard time impacting main stream psychology.

No, you're not.

(Also why tracking experiments are the PCT mainstay.)

They aren't.

I thought you said goodbye. Did you just have more hostility and nastiness that you had neglected to deliver the last time?

When it comes to hostility and nastiness, I humbly defer to you and Rick.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (2010.07.21.0610)]

BG: When it comes to hostility and nastiness, I humbly defer to you and Rick.

BP: You reap what you sow. I don't get h&n from other people. I'm just showing you that there's always a faster gun somewhere.

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.07.21.0847 EDT)]

[From Bill Powers (2010.07.21.0610)]

BG: When it comes to hostility and nastiness, I humbly defer to you and Rick.

BP: You reap what you sow. I don't get h&n from other people. I'm just showing you that there's always a faster gun somewhere.

You are quick on the trigger. Now if only you could shoot straight...

Bruce