Accurate Portrayal of PCT?

[From Dan Palmer (2000.3.26.9:57)]

Hey there PCTers,

I just sent off the following to another psychology listserv, and would
appreciate some feedback on whether I did PCT justice.

Someone else wrote:

In any event, can response and stimulus functions be determined from only
observation or is, say, an experimental analysis required? Consider a
related example: A response topography has many actual consequences, but
only an experimental analysis tells us which consequence is the functional
one (e.g., the reinforcing consequence).

I replied:
William Powers would have a lot to say here. I think he would argue that when

you�re dealing with behavior you�re dealing with control systems that are
functioning to maintain the value of some environmental variable (the goal).
The controlled variable is often not obvious, for as Brian says, any act has
multiple effects, only one or a few of which are being controlled (i.e., are
the
functional consequences). Powers would argue that you can only frame
hypotheses
about what is being controlled, and then you have to test these hypotheses
experimentally. In perceptual control theory�s "test for the controlled
variable," you disturb what you guess is the controlled variable and see
whether
the system expends effort to counter that disturbance.

For example, if you see me light a fire on a cold day, and then you open a
window (disturbance) and I get up and close it, this would support the
hypothesis that I am controlling the temperature of the room and that I lit
the
fire to generate heat. Whereas if I was not bothered about the cold air
rushing
in, you might look for another controlled variable - perhaps I was actually
sending a smoke signal to a friend or roasting potatoes.

I guess an alternative strategy would be to ask "what are you doing?" but this

is risky, because it assumes a) that I know what I'm doing, and b) that I'll
tell the truth!

Cheers,
Dan Palmer

[From Rick Marken (2000.03.26.1051)]

Dan Palmer (2000.3.26.9:57) --

I just sent off the following to another psychology listserv,
and would appreciate some feedback on whether I did PCT justice.

Excellent job. A+

Best

Rick

···

--

Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken/