Abbott, EAB, PCT

[FROM: Dennis Delprato (941012]

Bruce Abbott (several recent postings) has expressed
interest in applying PCT to problems it has not heretofore
addressed. Bruce, you say your background is operant
psychology. [Somehow I associate you with Badia.
Nonetheless, you must be a broad thinker (intended
sincerely), for I have used your test for many years, and it
is, of course, most un-EAB like. As to why I have used your
mainstream text so long, well that's a long story.]

I was excited to find your posting to CSG-L. Let me say
something to you, a specialist in EAB, that I have been
thinking about for some time. (I am not a specialist in

What is EAB's status regarding behavioral control systems as
these are treated on CSG-L. In many ways, Skinner is no
longer the major figure in EAB. But he did provide the
major impetus, and Skinner was progressive. He did get the
emphasis changed from S-->R to R-->Consequences (the multi-
headed construct of the operant). But he never took the
step of asking more about the consequences--they remained
outside of the system under analysis. But some researchers
have carried Skinnerian analysis further than did Skinner.
Rachlin, Staddon, and others have been influenced by data on
the generalized matching law: "describes the orderly
interdependence of behavior and reinforcement, where neither
is necessarily causal ... [and where] operant behavior is
part of a continuous feedback system [in which] changes in
behavior lead to changes in the environment, which produce
further changes in behavior, and so forth, until a stable
equilibrium is achieved" [sounds like sequences of lineal
causes, but progressive. These researchers have developed
feedback function analyses. I bring this up to you because
it is my view that a wide open fascinating area is for an
EAB researcher to finally make the connection (actually
transition) from feedback functions to perceptual control
systems. (Ideal title of a paper: "From Feedback Functions
to Perceptual Control Systems.") To this point, no one has
earned a cigar. And you mention that you are writing a book
on learning and behavior. If you made the transition
suggested, this would be a notable contribution.

Here is another connection between EAB and PCT I have
thought about. Actually, it is a suggested PCT (radical)
modification of one of the most, if not the most,
fundamental issues in behavioral science. I suggest that
Bill Powers may have given us the fundamental behavioral
unit of the future. You may recall T. Thompson and M.
Zeiler's (1986) _Analysis and Integration of Behavioral
Units_. After discussing previously proffered fundamental
units for psychology (reflex, stimuli, responses, chains of
stimuli and responses), Zeiler brings up EAB units (operant,
respondent, and relatives). The end of his chapter consists
of reflection on how no one outside of EAB has ever written
favorably about EAB units, found them compelling, or even
found them interesting. It has been almost 9 years since
this book, one designed to stimulate EAB thinking about
units. I am afraid no one is impressed. The EAB units are
moribund because they _don't do anything_ and psychology is
all about doing. A few years ago in JEAB, Shimp said EAB
needed models that behaved and had none. If EAB types would
consider PCT, they could have models that behaved. Few
psychologists other than EAB specialists and PCT experts are
prepared to appreciate the full implications of fundamental
units that actually behave. I was most impressed when I ran
across Shimp's comments that the major limitation of the
generalized matching law is that if it were put into a robot
that were put into an experimental chamber the robot would
remain immobile (JEAB, 1989, v. 51, p. 169). So, the
generalized matching law takes us to feedback functions, but
we cannot get from the feedback functions to a behaving
model--and operant psychology, above all, aspires to taking
psychology as the science of _behavior_. PCT may be needed
to give behavior in the fullest sense to EAB, at which point
we can still have EAB, but with a new character. This, it
seems from what you have said, would please you.

With encouragement,

Dennis Delprato
Department of Psychology
Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI 48197