Absolute PCT

[From Rick Marken (941007.2300)]

Martin Taylor (941007 17:30) --

Where does control enter into their [the psychophysicists] own
thinking? It enters OUR thinking, when we consider what happens
in that kind of experiment. And make no mistake about it, what
happens, happens. If what happens is done by living control systems,
it is a fit subject for consideration using PCT. If it happens
consistently, then PCT had better be able to provide at least a plausible
explanation.

Here is where your persistent desire to put the cart of theory well before
the horse of experimental test (if the horse gets put in at all) leaves you
stranded just past the starting gate in the "race" to understand PCT.
What you are saying here is that, because psychologists have observed
some consistent phenomena, PCT had better be able to explain them.
But consistency is not control. As Tom mentioned in an earlier post,
you can find some pretty consistent results (such as a consistent
relationship between handle movements and cursor movements like
that described in Tom's "Mimicry" paper in Closed Loop) that are not
controlled. PCT might be able to "explain" observed consistencies like
this but such an explanation would be completely superficial -- and
since this is a one-shot, curve fitting exercise, we'd have no way of
checking whether we were on the trail of a real controlled variable or
not. That's not science; it's numerology.

The observed regularities that we do find in the existing behavioral
science database could be the start of a program of research and
modelling; you might start, for example, with the hypothesis that the
observed regularity in some psychophysical tasks results from the fact
that people are controlling a relationship between certain perceptions.
But then you have to test this notion, applying disturbances to the
hypothesized controlled variable while the subject can affect it as well,
and revise definitions of the controlled variable as the research
progresses.

are you claiming that you can control the offset of two lines
to better than one arc-second...

Is conventional psychophysics so useless in illuminating the
limitations on control systems?

We've been through this. The answer, of course, is "yes, conventional
psychophysics is useless to PCT". In order to show that it is not useless,
you know the drill; show me how the psychophysical "limitations"
data can be incorporated into a model (of control of the distance
between lines, say) that matches subject data better than a model I can
build without the "limitations" data.

To be on one's knees is not a scientific position.

No. It's an emotional position. It breaks my heart to see capable minds
like yours lost to numerology when you could be doing or guiding PCT
studies of living control systems.

it is not helpful to take the absolutist position of the religious convert.

Well, you can call it what you like. But the fact of the matter is that
conventional research data reveals nothing about control -- and you
have presented nothing to show me that it does. My absolutist, religious
convert position is simply that it would be nice if some of you people
who are ostensibly interested in control theory would get out there and
start studying control. That might sound extremist if you are convinced
that psycholgists already have journals full of data relevant to PCT. But
if you are convinced that the journals are full of such data, then I've got
a bridge you might be interested in buying, too.

A living control system is a living control system. If one want to find
out how it works, one has to notice that it is a living control system.

"Noticing" is not nearly enough, I'm afraid. Aren't you the fellow
who "noticed" that chaotic attractors are control systems? I think you
really need to get that horse up there in front of the ol' cart.

More generally, Rick often pleads that the only legitimate aim of PCT
research is to find "the controlled variable." If one is to believe the
premises of PCT, this search is doomed to fail

Well, this is an interesting revelation. You (along with Oded and
Hans) apparently think that PCT research is impossible. I guess I can get
off my knees now; no need to look for any PCT research coming out of the
great north.

So I take it that you see PCT as an alternative model of the data that has
already been found using conventional behavioral science methods?
And that any further data related to PCT could just as well come out of
the conventional psychology literature as out of religious zealot PCT
researchers like Tom, Bill and myself? According to you, it seems, there
is really no urgent need to do this strange new kind of research called
The Test.; in fact, it's impossible anyway. Wonderful.

Is that clear :slight_smile:

As the proverbial bell.

Looks like, when it comes to publishing PCT research, it's going to be
the usual cult members -- Tom. Bill and myself -- for some time to
come. How cozy.

Best

Rick

[Martin Taylor 941012 15:40]

Rick Marken (941007.2300)

"Noticing" is not nearly enough, I'm afraid. Aren't you the fellow
who "noticed" that chaotic attractors are control systems?

Aren't you the fantasist who imagines things like the above? No wonder
you have problems with answering straightforward questions.

No, I didn't. I did spend quite a while trying to argue that not all
systems with negative feedback should be called "control systems," on the
ground that the term "control system" was more fruitfully applied to
negative feedback systems with variable reference levels. During that
discussion, I did point out that a variety of self-organized (NOT "chaotic")
structures were stabilized by negative feedback, and that I didn't like
the connotations of calling them "control systems." My argument that
these were NOT control systems has now been transmuted into a claim that
"chaotic attractors" (which didn't enter the discussion at all) ARE
control systems.

It's awfully difficult to continue a serious discussion, and maintain a
straight face, when confronted with this kind of garbage day after day.

More generally, Rick often pleads that the only legitimate aim of PCT
research is to find "the controlled variable." If one is to believe the
premises of PCT, this search is doomed to fail

Well, this is an interesting revelation. You (along with Oded and
Hans) apparently think that PCT research is impossible.

Did you get THAT out of my argument? Well, well. I am not surprised--
I'm FLABBERGASTED!! Could you please quote the entire paragraph that
supported the quote you chose, and answer the argument in a technical
rather than an emotional sense?

In case you lost it, the argument was twofold:

1. that an external observer of any kind can test only for controlled
perceptual spaces, not for controlled perceptual variables ("controlled
perceptions"), since any scalar application of the Test within the
controlled perceptual space will result in a well-fitting scalar model,
and thus no perceptual direction within the controlled space can be
distinguished from another by the Test.

2. the relative gains of different controlled perceptions change over
time (not perceptual spaces, because "gain" has no meaning in that context).
Hence what the Test shows to be controlled at one moment may not be shown
to be controlled at another.

Point 1 suggests that no version of the Test can determine whether any
particular scalar CEV corresponds to a controlled perception, unless the
perceptual space in question is unidimensional. Point 2 suggests that
the results of the Test performed at different times will be different,
except under the same kinds of conditions as are assumed in standard
psychophysics--namely that the subject collaborates with the experimenter
to control some consistent perception.

According to you, it seems, there
is really no urgent need to do this strange new kind of research called
The Test.; in fact, it's impossible anyway. Wonderful.

Again, I ask for a technical comment on the paragraph you didn't quote,
to replace this miasmic emotional response.

Is the English language really so hard to understand as you often make it
appear? Or is it my English usage that is hard for everyone to understand?

Either way, it's a pity, because you know about lots of practical aspects
of PCT that I use in talking to other people about it, and I'm sure that
we could advance the theory and practice a lot better if you didn't feel it
necessary to invert the meaning of so many of my postings in order to
trash them. Trash what I say, if it deserves it, but please don't continue
to trash ME, on the basis of the opposite of what I say (or even on the
basis of what I DO say, if it is on a technical issue).

Martin

Tom Bourbon [941013.1359]

[Martin Taylor 941012 15:40]

Rick Marken (941007.2300)

Skipping past some of the smoke and fire, I need help following your
argument, Martin.

Martin:

More generally, Rick often pleads that the only legitimate aim of PCT
research is to find "the controlled variable." If one is to believe the
premises of PCT, this search is doomed to fail

Rick:

Well, this is an interesting revelation. You (along with Oded and
Hans) apparently think that PCT research is impossible.

Martin:

Did you get THAT out of my argument? Well, well. I am not surprised--
I'm FLABBERGASTED!! Could you please quote the entire paragraph that
supported the quote you chose, and answer the argument in a technical
rather than an emotional sense?

I don't recall seeing or hearing Rick say that, "the _only_ legitimate aim
of PCT research is to find "the controlled variable."" If he doesn't say
that, then what is the point of your reply? If he does say it, Rick, what
do your mean?

I have tried seven times now to start this brief reply, but I can't find a
place to get a solid grip on your ideas, or is it my own ideas that keep
slipping away? It might help if you were to answer a few simple questions
that are bothering me. Maybe you can answer them for me.

What, in _your_ opinion, is the aim of PCT research? What do you think of
as comprising "PCT research," that it would have that aim, or those aims?
Do you distinguish between PCT research, PCT modeling, THE TEST, and PCT the
theory? If you do, where do you draw the distinctions, and why?

In case you lost it, the argument was twofold:

1. that an external observer of any kind can test only for controlled
perceptual spaces, not for controlled perceptual variables ("controlled
perceptions"), since any scalar application of the Test within the
controlled perceptual space will result in a well-fitting scalar model,
and thus no perceptual direction within the controlled space can be
distinguished from another by the Test.

. . .

Point 1 suggests that no version of the Test can determine whether any
particular scalar CEV corresponds to a controlled perception, unless the
perceptual space in question is unidimensional.

You lost me on Point 1, Martin. To understand such claims as this, I
often need examples. Could you step me through your thinking by using an
example? To pull one out of the air, could you show me how those ideas
would apply were you to test for the controlled perceptual _spaces_ of a
person driving in traffic, and show why you could not test for controlled
perceptual _variables_? I would appreciate that.

2. the relative gains of different controlled perceptions change over
time (not perceptual spaces, because "gain" has no meaning in that context).
Hence what the Test shows to be controlled at one moment may not be shown
to be controlled at another.

. . .

Point 2 suggests that
the results of the Test performed at different times will be different,
except under the same kinds of conditions as are assumed in standard
psychophysics--namely that the subject collaborates with the experimenter
to control some consistent perception.

_Never_ at another moment? Couldn't you just as easily say that, "what the
Test shows to be controlled at one moment _may be_ shown to be controlled at
another?" Point 2 also "suggests" that the results of the Test performed
at different times will be _the same_. Could you give a clue as to why you
chose to introduce this red herring? Are you saying that, because a person
_might_, or _might not_, control a different perception later, we cannot
test for the perception the person is controlling now? What difference does
it make if a person does adopt a different reference perception later? (I am
asking your opinion.) Do you think Rick (or Bill Powers or I or any other
person who has actually done the test and modeled the results) believes that
once a CV is identified, it must ever after remain the same?

I am always uncomfortable with arguments that turn on selectively
emphasizing one side of an inseparable pair of alternatives: may (or may
not), might (or might not), perhaps (or perhaps not), and so on. As you
stated them, the points you raised with Rick might be relevant.

Later,

Tom

[Martin Taylor 941018 09:00]

Tom Bourbon [941013.1359]

I guess this is the posting by Tom that Rick said I was ignoring. Well, it
has arrived, but I don't have much time available to answer it, so I'll
concentrate on the questions that Rick also wanted me to answer.

What, in _your_ opinion, is the aim of PCT research? What do you think of
as comprising "PCT research," that it would have that aim, or those aims?
Do you distinguish between PCT research, PCT modeling, THE TEST, and PCT the
theory? If you do, where do you draw the distinctions, and why?

1. What, in _your_ opinion, is the aim of PCT research?

I don't think "PCT research" has an aim. PCT researchers do, and I suspect
that the aim of each is somewhat different. And that should be "aims" not
"aim," since we probably all have multiple aims. My own is to enlarge my
understanding of how living things function, emphasizing humans and
in particular those aspects that are sometimes called "psychology." And
to use PCT in the practical matters with which I am formally charged. But
that's not really "PCT research." It is "PCT application."

My method is primarily to accept what has been claimed to be HPCTheory as
written, and to see what implications I can derive from it together with
whatever else I know of physical science and mathematics. These implications
are then tested against my personal experience and the results of whatever
experiments seem to me to be interpretable when seen from the viewpoint
of PCT. In other words, I have a philosophically based acceptance of
PCT as a correct framework for psychology, in the same way as Newtonian
theory forms a correct framework for macroscopic mechanics, and perhaps
more solidly so. The interest to me is not in proving that living systems
are control systems, as I take that for granted since reading BCP, but in
seeing what control structures a particular living system may be using,
how those control structures develop, and how they may differ across
individuals (or not, as the case may be).

I am sure that this "aim of PCT research" differs markedly from the "aim
of PCT research" held by other CSG-L participants. But I seriously doubt
that it is contradictory to or incompatible with those other aims (unless
the other aim is specifically to exclude other sciences so as to be able
to live in a comfortable ghetto).

2. What do you think of as comprising "PCT research," that it would have
that aim, or those aims?

Any research that elucidates mechanisms whereby control systems can develop
control functions without using information that they could not physically
obtain. That includes evolutionary considerations as well as learning. Any
research that elucidates the functioning of real or idealized control systems,
especially in a complex nonlinear and possibly chaotic environment. Any
research that elucidates the interaction of multiple control systems,
whether in the same hierarchy or not. Any research that elucidates the
control structures that actually exist within any real living control system.

3. Do you distinguish between PCT research, PCT modeling, THE TEST, and PCT the
theory?

Yes. PCT research covers all the aspects listed under 2., and more. PCT
modelling is one way to determine how specific control structures with
specific parameters actually work, and to determine whether a particular
structure is a plausible approximation to whatever control structures are
used by a particular living control system at a particular time. The Test
is an approach to gathering data that can determine whether a particular
CEV corresponds to a dimension of a controlled perceptual space. It may
be a way of approximating a controlled perceptual variable, but whether
in this happens in a specific case is determined by whether the organism
actually does control an isolated scalar perception, not by The Test itself.

PCT the theory has many aspects, which I once partitioned into the core theory,
the accepted theory, and the conventional theory, which is taken as a basis
for discussion but which can be readily changed without affecting anything
that matters.

The core theory is based around "all behaviour is the control of perception"
and "all perception is based on scalar variables that eventually can be
traced to sensory input from the environment external to the control system
under study." The accepted theory is basically HPCT. The conventional
theory includes the definitions of the 11 levels (about some of which, as
you probably are aware, I remain sceptical, and which Bill P. often refers
to as being tentative).

I think that this should answer your last question as well.

ยทยทยท

========================
To clear up a misunderstanding about my discussion of the search for "the
controlled variable."

2. the relative gains of different controlled perceptions change over
time (not perceptual spaces, because "gain" has no meaning in that context).
Hence what the Test shows to be controlled at one moment may not be shown
to be controlled at another.

_Never_ at another moment? Couldn't you just as easily say that, "what the
Test shows to be controlled at one moment _may be_ shown to be controlled at
another?"

In your language, does "may" equal "must?" I used "may" specifically to
suggest that a possibility exists, not that a necessity exists. Of course,
much of the time the reference will be the same, or close to it, with well
chosen applications of The Test.

Could you give a clue as to why you
chose to introduce this red herring? Are you saying that, because a person
_might_, or _might not_, control a different perception later, we cannot
test for the perception the person is controlling now?

Of course not. And I don't see that it is any kind of a red herring to
suggest that reference signals sometimes change, and that whether and
to what degree a particular perception is controlled can vary over time.
Both are facets of the accepted theory, and indeed of the conventional
theory, let alone the core theory of PCT.

I don't recall seeing or hearing Rick say that, "the _only_ legitimate aim
of PCT research is to find "the controlled variable."

If I were not leaving so soon and had so much to do beforehand, I would
simply go back through the archives of the last few months. I'm sure I
could find at least a dozen such occasions. But maybe I misread Rick as
badly as he misreads me. I hope so.

Do you think Rick (or Bill Powers or I or any other
person who has actually done the test and modeled the results) believes that
once a CV is identified, it must ever after remain the same?

I have never thought that about you or Bill P., but Rick's language has
left me sometimes wondering about him. And I don't really believe it of
him. What I do think is that he wants newcomers to CSG-L to believe it.

Don't expect much more out of me until Nov 16. Maybe one or two quick
responses, but I shouldn't.

See you then.

Martin