An Experiment At Last

[From Fred Nickols (990411.1530 EDT)]--

Okay; I did it. I used the coin game with my wife over lunch today.
Frankly, it was a little disappointing for me. For her it was a little
surprising. Here's how it went.

I used four quarters and explained to her that she could arrange them any
way she liked. Once arranged she was to write down the conditions or
pattern her arrangement was to satisfy. I would then move the quarters
about and she was to say okay if my movement of the quarters did not
disturb the condition or pattern she wanted to maintain and she was to say
not okay if my movement of the quarters did disturb that condition or pattern.

She arranged the quarters in a stack.

I pulled one off the top and she said not okay.

I put it back and examined the quarters. They alternated heads and tails
and ran in date order from oldest to newest from the bottom up.

I turned over the bottom quarter and she said not okay.

I put it back and hazarded this guess:

        You have the quarters stacked, alternating between heads and tails, in
date order with the oldest on the bottom and the newest on the top.

She allowed that I had identified her conditions/pattern.

She wanted to try it.

I arranged the four quarters with one head up and three tails up. My
condition was articulated as "No more than one heads up."

She turned over the heads up coin and I said not okay. She put it back.

She turned over one of the tails up coins and I said not okay. She put it
back.

She moved the coins around while leaving one with heads up (the original
one). I said nothing.

She said, "I give up." I told her what I was controlling.

Afterward, she said her pattern was youngest on the bottom to support the
older and weaker at the top. She said she thought that probably said more
about her than the coins.

She also indicated that this was a good exercise for use in problem solving
training to get people accustomed to defining the end state they are
seeking in ways that are testable, that is, as an exercise in specifying
solved state conditions.

And what have I learned? Beats me...and, as she said to me, "This is what
you do; you troubleshoot situations to figure out what's going on."

Comments anyone?

Regards,

Fred Nickols
Distance Consulting
http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm
nickols@worldnet.att.net
(609) 490-0095

[From Rick Marken (990411.1415)]

Fred Nickols (990411.1530 EDT)--

And what have I learned? [from the Coin Game]

Nothing, perhaps.

What do you think you've learned?

Best

Rick

···

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

[From Bill Powers (990411.1742 MDT)]

Fred Nickols (990411.1530 EDT)>

I used four quarters and explained to her that she could arrange them any
way she liked. Once arranged she was to write down the conditions or
pattern her arrangement was to satisfy. I would then move the quarters
about and she was to say okay if my movement of the quarters did not
disturb the condition or pattern she wanted to maintain and she was to say
not okay if my movement of the quarters did disturb that condition or

pattern.

Sorry, that's not how you play the coin game. If she says OK, you apply
another disturbance to the coins. But if she detects an error, SHE HAS TO
CORRECT IT by doing something to the coins, so she can once again see the
right pattern. Shye doesn't need to say anything, but she does have to
correct the error by some means. If you took a coin away that was necessary
for the pattern, she has to get it back and arrange it so the same pattern
is visible (to her).

If you disturb a geometric pattern, she doesn't have to restore the coins
to their initial configuration to correct the error. For example, suppose
the reference pattern is "a right triangle." If you move one of the coins
that made up the original right triangle, she can move a _different_ coin
to create another right triangle.

The critical point you missed is that the person doing the controlling has
to correct any errors. And of course the point for the guesser is NOT to
give up, if possible!

Best,

Bill Powers

[From Bill Powers (99041117657 MDT)]

Fred Nickols (990411.1530 EDT)

I think I neglected to say that you _continue_ with the cycle of disturbing
and correcting (or saying OK or No Error) until you figure out what the
other person is controlling and not controlling. The point is to make
hypotheses about what the other person is controlling and test them by
applying disturbances which will help you rule out wrong hypotheses, until
you are reasonably sure you have it right.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Fred Nickols (990412.1800 EDT)]--

Bill Powers (990411.1742 MDT)

Fred Nickols (990411.1530 EDT)>

I used four quarters and explained to her that she could arrange them any
way she liked. Once arranged she was to write down the conditions or
pattern her arrangement was to satisfy. I would then move the quarters
about and she was to say okay if my movement of the quarters did not
disturb the condition or pattern she wanted to maintain and she was to say
not okay if my movement of the quarters did disturb that condition or

pattern.

Sorry, that's not how you play the coin game. If she says OK, you apply
another disturbance to the coins. But if she detects an error, SHE HAS TO
CORRECT IT by doing something to the coins, so she can once again see the
right pattern. Shye doesn't need to say anything, but she does have to
correct the error by some means. If you took a coin away that was necessary
for the pattern, she has to get it back and arrange it so the same pattern
is visible (to her).

If you disturb a geometric pattern, she doesn't have to restore the coins
to their initial configuration to correct the error. For example, suppose
the reference pattern is "a right triangle." If you move one of the coins
that made up the original right triangle, she can move a _different_ coin
to create another right triangle.

The critical point you missed is that the person doing the controlling has
to correct any errors. And of course the point for the guesser is NOT to
give up, if possible!

I didn't miss it, I simply failed to see any difference in the case in
point between me putting the coins back to restore the original pattern or
her doing that. I agree there is a difference if she has to do the putting
back because she might find a different path to the same destination. I
also think there's a big difference between the essentially
two-dimensional, single criterion pattern you describe in your book and the
stacked or 3-D multiple-criterion pattern she used. In any event, I'll
retry the experiment with someone else under the prescribed conditions and
see what happens then.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
Distance Consulting
http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm
nickols@worldnet.att.net
(609) 490-0095

[From Bill Powers (990412.2102 MDT)]

Fred Nickols (990412.1800 EDT)--

I didn't miss it, I simply failed to see any difference in the case in
point between me putting the coins back to restore the original pattern or
her doing that. I agree there is a difference if she has to do the putting
back because she might find a different path to the same destination.

Yes, and this quite often makes a difference in that the way she corrects
the error can easily mislead you into seeing the wrong controlled variable.

Suppose you take away one coin and she says "no error." You put that coin
back and take a different one, and she still says "no error". In fact you
find that you can take away any single coin, but not more than one coin,
and get a "no error." You notice that when she retrieves a coin from you,
she places it on the table to form a triangle with the remaining two coins.
Is the pattern "any triangle"? Not necessarily. Try placing the remaining
three coins in a straight line -- she says "no error". Or put one coin on
top of another. She puts it back on the table. Hmm. Could it be "any three
coins touching the table"? Put one coin so it's propped up by another coin,
but with one edge touching the table. "No error." Carefully lean two coins
together. "No error". Spend ten minutes getting all three remaining coins
standing on edge and leaning together. "No error". Put back the coin you
took away and put one coin all the way on top of another. "No error." Put
one of the single coins on the stack to make a stack of three. She will
remove one coin from somewhere in the stack, perhaps leaving all four coins
touching the table, perhaps removing one coin, perhaps stacking two coins.

Now you can predict when she will silently correct an error and when she'll
say "no error" (or "OK"). You can't predict just how she'll correct the
error -- there are many ways -- but you can predict when she will make a
correction and when she won't.

I
also think there's a big difference between the essentially
two-dimensional, single criterion pattern you describe in your book and the
stacked or 3-D multiple-criterion pattern she used. In any event, I'll
retry the experiment with someone else under the prescribed conditions and
see what happens then.

2-D or 3-D makes no difference in the principle being illustrated. You form
hypotheses about what she's controlling for, then try different
disturbances that would call for either a correction or no correction
according to your hypothesis. If you're right, try to find a disturbance
that proves you wrong. When you can predict correctly both "OK" and
occurrance of a corrective move (though not _which_ move) for all kinds of
disturbances you can think of, you can finally venture your guess as to
what she's controlling. The more ways you can think of to prove that you're
wrong, the more confident you will be when you finally have a guess that
you can't disprove.

But you can still be surprised. My favorite was discovering that someone
was clearly maintaining a "Z" pattern of four coins. When I stated my
solution, the other person said, "Wrong. It was an N." And the person
watching said "Oh, I thought it was a zig-zag." Of course we were all
describing the same controlled variable, although not the same controlled
perception.

It's especially interesting to be dead sure you know what the variable is,
and discover that it was something in a completely different category. You
can easily fall into superstitious beliefs when you define the variable so
loosely that many different patterns would fit, and then discover that
there was no geometric pattern at all -- the person was sorting the coins
by date, or alphabetically by name (dime, nickel, penny, quarter) or size,
or value (1,5,10,25).

If you play this game enough, you'll be properly impressed by how easy it
is to miss dozens of obvious controllable variables that are right there in
plain sight. You learn just how far-ranging your guesses have to be to have
any chance of identifying what the other person is really doing, right
there in front of you.

When you absorb the lessons of the Coin Game, you'll understand fully what
it means to say "You can't tell what people are doing just by watching what
they're doing." Watching isn't enough. It is ESSENTIAL to apply (or wait
for) disturbances and watch to see how or if their effects on the variable
you thought was being controlled are corrected.

Best,

Bill P.