Accounting For

[From Bruce Abbott (950317.2020 EST)]

Rick Marken (950316.2030) --

I still think that there is an important difference between "accounting
for" a phenomenon like stimulus control and "showing that it is really
a different phenomenon". Let me try to explain my point of view one
more time.

Rick, I understand your analogy (nice example, by the way), but I think it
misses the mark. Stimulus control is hardly in the same class as "writing
your name," even if both involve the effect of systematic disturbances to a
control system. It is a major explanatory principle of behavior analysis
and, as an empirical (as opposed to theoretical) phenomenon, a ubiquitous
one. The APPEARANCE of stimulus control is compelling: behavior apparently
under stimulus control changes almost instantly as the stimulus changes, a
fact which has been attributed theoretically to the history of response
reinforcement in the presence of each stimulus. Stimulus control is said to
explain why a well-trained dog sits when commanded to sit, why we may behave
differently at work than we do at home, how acts may be linked into a
sequence by the stimulus consequences of those acts. I think it's important
to show that PCT can explain the appearances, because it is a step that is
absolutely required if PCT is to be given any serious consideration by
mainstream behavioral psychology. In the meantime, I believe that we will
be forced to grapple with some interesting problems for PCT, some of which
have already surfaced, which will contribute to the further development
either of the theory or of our ability to apply it successfully. The notion
that stimulus control is "just a side-effect of control" suggests that we
already understand perfectly well how to model it, as though it were but a
trivial application. Yet you yourself have stated that this is not the case:

Thus, we
have not yet "accounted for" the controlling observed in the SDTEST situation.
Accounting for this kind of control means designing a hierarchy (probably)
of control systems, the relevant perceptual functions, dynamics and
connections between these systems. The research you are doing will
provide much of the groundwork for developing this model.

It seems to me that this is a "win-win" situation. If successfull, we
"account for stimulus control" and thus establish one anchor of a strong
argument for PCT over the traditional reinforcement-based view; and whether
or not anyone in EAB buys it, we make progress in understanding how to model
the perceptual processes and structure of the the control system that
mediates the appearance of "stimulus control" in the SDTEST3 situation.

But I suppose you won't take my word for it; so I'll just wait around
and try to keep my mouth shut while you find out for yourself.

Well, Rick (I'm trying to sound like Jerry Spence again, so read slowly),
some things a guy's just gotta learn on his own. Ya see, it's like you've
got this problem you're tryin' to solve, an' ya just gotta keep goin' till
ya either solve it or figger out ya just ain't gonna solve it, an' ya....[at
which point Jerry is cut off by a commercial break]. (;->

Regards,

Bruce