Another Devils' Bib. entry

From Greg Williams (930525)

Quoted from Edwin A. Locke (University of Maryland) and Gary P.
Latham (University of Washington), A THEORY OF GOAL SETTING & TASK
PERFORMANCE, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1990, pp.
19-23. (Copyright 1990 by Prentice-Hall, Inc.)

According to the book's index, there are no other comments on PCT
besides these.

  "As the influence of behaviorism has declined, a neo-behaviorist
theory is emerging to take its place. It is called control theory and
can be viewed as a combination or integration of behaviorism, machine-
computer theory (cybernetics), goal setting theory [championed by
Locke and Latham], and, by implication, drive-reduction theory. It is
derived directly from Miller, Galanter, and Pribram's TOTE model
(1960). The major concepts of control theory have been presented by
Campion and Lord (1982), Carver and Scheier (1982), Hyland (1988),
Lord and Hanges (1987), Powers (1973), and others. In brief, the
theory asserts that there is INPUT (a stimulus), which is detected by
a SENSOR. If there is a deviation (also called a 'disturbance'), a
SIGNAL is sent to an EFFECTOR, which generates modified OUTPUT (a
response). This output becomes input for the next cycle. In goal
theory language, the input is feedback from previous performance, the
reference signal is the goal, the comparator is the individual's
conscious judgment, and the effector or response is his or her
subsequent action which works to reduce the discrepancy between goal
and performance.
  "While control theory acknowledges the importance of goal setting,
there are serious, if not irredeemable, flaws in the model. First,
observe that the major 'motive' for action under control theory is to
remove disturbances or discrepancies between the goal and the input
(feedback). The natural state of the organism is seen to be one of
motionlessness or rest. This is true of machines, but not of living
organisms which are naturally active. It is, in fact, a mechanistic
version of the long-discredited drive-reduction theory (Cofer &
Appley, 1967). Nuttin (1984 [J. Nuttin, MOTIVATION, PLANNING AND
ACTION, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, New Jersey]) has observed that in this
aspect, control theory fundamentally misstates the actual source of
motivation: 'The behavioral process... does not begin with a "test" of
the discrepancy between the standard and the actual states of affairs.
Instead, it begins with a preliminary and fundamental operation,
namely the construction of the standard itself, which, as a goal, is
at the origin of the action and directs its further course' (p. 145).
Similarly, Bandura (in press [A. Bandura, "Reflections on Nonability
Determinants of Competence," in J. Kolligan & R. Sternberg, eds.,
COMPETENCE CONSIDERED: PERCEPTIONS OF COMPETENCE AND INCOMPETENCE
ACROSS THE LIFESPAN, Yale University Press, New Haven]) noted that
GOAL SETTING IS FIRST AND FOREMOST A DISCREPANCY CREATING PROCESS.
Control theory begins in the middle rather than at the beginning of
the motivational sequence. To quote Bandura (in press):

        Human self-motivation relies on both DISCREPANCY PRODUCTION
        and DISCREPANCY REDUCTION. It requires FEEDFORWARD control as
        well as FEEDBACK control. People initially motivate themselves
        through feedforward control by setting themselves valued
        challenging standards that create a state of disequilibrium
        and then mobilizing their their effort on the basis of
        anticipatory estimation of what it would take to reach them.
        After people attain the standard they have been pursuing, they
        generally set a higher standard for themselves. The adoption
        of further challenges creates new motivating discrepancies to
        be mastered. Similarly, surpassing a standard is more likely
        to raise aspiration than to lower subsequent performance to
        conform to the surpassed standard. Self motivation thus
        involves a dual cyclic process of disequilibrating discrepancy
        production followed by equilibrating discrepancy reduction.
        (p. 23 of preprint)

  "Figure 1-3 [not reproduced here] shows how little of the
motivational process contro, theory, in its 'core' version,
incorporates.
  "The above is important because if discrepancy reduction is the
major motive, as implied by control theory, then the most logical
thing for an individual to do would simply be to adapt his or her goal
to the input. This would guarantee that there would be no disturbance
or discrepancy. Machines, of course, cannot do this because the
standard has been fixed by people at a certain level (as in setting a
thermostat). But people can and do change standards that diverge from
present performance. If the individual's major motive were to remove
disturbances, people would never do this. Control theorists argue that
lower-level goals are actually caused by goals at a higher level in
the individual's goal hierarchy (Carver & Scheier, 1982). But this
only pushes the problem back a step. Why should people set higher-
level goals if they only want to reduce tension? But in reality,
people do set goals and then act to attain them; they do not focus
primarily on eliminating disturbances. Removal of discrepancies and
any associated tension is a CORRELATE of goal-directed action, not its
cause. The causal sequence begins with setting the goal, not with
removing deviations from it.
  "At a fundamental level, discrepancy reduction theories such as
control theory are inadequate because if people consistently acted in
accordance with them by trying to eliminate all disturbances, they
would all commit suicide -- because it would be the only way to
totally eliminate tension. If people chose instead to stay alive but
set no goals, they would soon die anyway. By the time they were forced
into action by desperate, unremitting hunger pangs, it would be too
late to grow and process the food they would need to survive.
  "In their major work, Carver and Scheier (1981) denied that
discrepancy reduction is motivated by a desire to reduce a drive or
state of tension. But their own explanation as to why people at to
reduce discrepancies is quite puzzling. 'The shift [of action in the
direction of the goal or standard] is a natural consequence of the
engagement of a discrepancy-reducing feedback loop' (p. 145). This
statement, of course, explains nothing. Why is discrepancy reduction a
'natural consequence'? According to goal theory, BOTH discrepancy
creation AND discrepancy reduction occur for the same reason: because
people need and desire to attain goals. Such actions are required for
their survival, happiness, and well-being.
  "A second problem with control theory is its very use of a machine
as a metaphor. The problem with such a metaphor is that it cannot be
taken too literally or it becomes highly misleading (e.g., see
Saundelands, Glynn, & Larson, 1988 [L.E. Sandelands, M.A. Glynn, &
J.R. Larson, "Task Performance and the 'Control' of Feedback,"
Columbia University, unpublished manuscript]). For example, people do
not operate within the deterministic, closed-loop system that control
theory suggests. In response to negative feedback,for example, people
can try harder or less hard. They can focus on the cause and perhaps
change their strategy. They can also lower the goal to match their
performance; in some cases they may raise their goal. Furthermore,
they can reinterpret the discrepancy as unimportant and ignore it or
can even totally deny it. They can also question the accuracy of the
feedback. They can go outside the system (by leaving the situation).
They can attack the person they hold responsible for the discrepancy.
They can become paralyzed by self-doubt and fear and do nothing. They
can drink liquor to blot out the pain. In short, they can do any
number of things other than respond in machinelike fashion.
Furthermore, people can feel varying degrees of satisfaction and
dissatisfaction, develop varying degrees of commitment to goals, and
assess their confidence in being able to reach them (Bandura, 1986).
These emotions, decisions, and estimates affect what new goals they
will set and how they will respond to feedback indicative of
deviations from the goal (Bandura, 1988). Control theory, insofar as
it stresses a mechanistic model, simply has no place for these
alternatives, which basically means that it has no place for
consciousness. Insofar as this is the case, the theory must fail for
the same reason behaviorism failed. Without studying and measuring
psychological processes, one cannot explain human action.
  "One might ask why control theory could not be expanded so as to
accommodate the ideas and processes noted above. Attempts have been
made to do this, but when it is done, the machine language may still
be retained. Hyland (1988), for example, described the effects of goal
importance or commitment in terms of 'error sensitivity,' which is
represented diagrammatically by a box called an 'amplifier.'
Expectations and memory are represented as 'symbolic control loops.'
Decision making is done not by a person but by a 'selector.' What is
the benefit of translating relatively clear and well-accepted concepts
that apply to human beings into computer language that is virtually
incomprehensible when used to describe human cognition? The greater
the number of concepts referring to states or actions of consciousness
that are relabeled in terms of machine language, the more implausible
and incomprehensible the whole enterprise becomes. Nuttin (1984, p.

···

148) wrote on this: 'When behavioral phenomena are translated into
cybernetic and computer language, their motivational aspect is lost in
the process. This occurs because motivation is foreign to all
machines.'
  "On the other hand, if additional concepts are brought into control
theory and not all relabeled in machine language (e.g., Lord & Hanges,
1987), then control theory loses its distinctive character as a
machine metaphor and becomes superfluous -- that is, a conglomeration
of ideas borrowed from OTHER theories. And if control theory does not
make the needed changes and expansions, it is inadequate to account
for human action. Control theory, therefore, seems to be caught in a
triple bind from which there is no escape. If it stays strictly
mechanistic, it does not work. If it uses mechanistic language to
relabel concepts referring to consciousness, it is incomprehensible.
And if it uses nonmechanistic concepts, it is unoriginal. It has been
argued that control theory is useful because it provides a general
model into which numerous other theories can be integrated (Hyland,
1988). However, a general model that is inadequate in itself cannot
successfully provide an account of the phenomena of other theories.
  "In their book, Carver cand Scheier (1981) examined the effect of
individual differences in degree of internal focus versus external
focus in action. While this presentation is more plausible than the
mechanistic versions of control theory, most of it actually has little
to do with control theory as it relates to goal setting. For example,
they discuss how expectancies and self-focus affect performance but do
not examine the goal-expectancy literature (as we do in Chapter 3).
And some of their conclusions (such as that self-efficacy does not
affect performance directly) contradict actual research findings. Only
one actual goal setting study (not in Carver and Scheier's book) has
used the self-focus measure. Hollenbeck and Williams (1987) found that
self-focus only affected performance as part of a triple interaction
in which ability was not controlled. Thus it remains to be seen how
useful the measure is, either as a moderator or as a mediator of goal
setting effectiveness.
  "There is also a conceptual problem with the prediction that the
relation between goals and performance will be higher among those high
in self-focus than those low in self-focus. Goal attainment requires,
over and above any internal focus, an EXTERNAL focus; most goals refer
to something one wants to achieve in the external world. Thus the
individual must monitor external feedback that shows progress in
relation to the goal in order to make progress toward it. Individuals
might focus internally as well (a) to remind ourselves of what the
goal is -- though this can also be done externally, as on a feedback
chart; (b) to retain commitment by reminding themselves of why the
goal is important; and (c) to assess self-efficacy. Furthermore,
depending on what is focused on, (e.g., self-encouraging thoughts or
self-doubt), an internal focus could either raise or lower goal-
relevant effort. In sum, the relation between where one is focused and
goal-relevant performance seems intuitively far more complex than is
recognized by the cognitive version of control theory.
  "Finally, some have argued that control theory is original because
it deals with the issue of goal change (e.g., Campion & Lord, 1982).
However, goal change was actually studied first by level-of-aspiration
researchers in the 1930s and 1940s, so control theory can make no
claim of originality here. Nor can a mechanistic model hope to deal
adequately with issues involving human choice as noted above.
  "In sum, the present authors do not see what control theory has
added to our understanding of the process of goal setting; all it has
done is to restate a very limited aspect of goal theory in another
language, just as was done by behavior mod advocates. Worse, control
theory, in its purest form, actually obscures understanding by
ignoring or inappropriately relabeling crucial psychological processes
that are involved in goal-directed action (these will be discussed in
subsequent chapters)."

From Tom Bourbon (930525.0814)

From Greg Williams (930525)

Quoted from Edwin A. Locke (University of Maryland) and Gary P.
Latham (University of Washington), A THEORY OF GOAL SETTING & TASK
PERFORMANCE, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1990, pp.
19-23. (Copyright 1990 by Prentice-Hall, Inc.)

According to the book's index, there are no other comments on PCT
besides these.

I won't repeat Greg's post. To see it again would put me at risk of losing
my breakfast, but I think all of us should save it. The next time anyone
thinks we are extreme in our criticisms of those who attempt to "popularize"
PCT by introducing unmodeled verbal revisions and trendy-sounding
psycho-babble, the person should read that post. It documents what can
happen when blatant foolishness concerning PCT is not exposed for what it is.

Gosh, Bill. I'm sorry you will read your morning mail and see your name
listed as part of that crew of ... all I can think of are derogatory labels.

Until later,
  Tom Bourbon

···

"As the influence of behaviorism has declined, a neo-behaviorist
theory is emerging to take its place. It is called control theory and
can be viewed as a combination or integration of behaviorism, machine-
computer theory (cybernetics), goal setting theory [championed by
Locke and Latham], and, by implication, drive-reduction theory. It is
derived directly from Miller, Galanter, and Pribram's TOTE model
(1960). The major concepts of control theory have been presented by
Campion and Lord (1982), Carver and Scheier (1982), Hyland (1988),
Lord and Hanges (1987), Powers (1973), and others. In brief, the
theory asserts that there is INPUT (a stimulus), which is detected by
a SENSOR. If there is a deviation (also called a 'disturbance'), a
SIGNAL is sent to an EFFECTOR, which generates modified OUTPUT (a
response). This output becomes input for the next cycle. In goal
theory language, the input is feedback from previous performance, the
reference signal is the goal, the comparator is the individual's
conscious judgment, and the effector or response is his or her
subsequent action which works to reduce the discrepancy between goal
and performance.
"While control theory acknowledges the importance of goal setting,
there are serious, if not irredeemable, flaws in the model. First,
observe that the major 'motive' for action under control theory is to
remove disturbances or discrepancies between the goal and the input
(feedback). The natural state of the organism is seen to be one of
motionlessness or rest. This is true of machines, but not of living
organisms which are naturally active. It is, in fact, a mechanistic
version of the long-discredited drive-reduction theory (Cofer &
Appley, 1967). Nuttin (1984 [J. Nuttin, MOTIVATION, PLANNING AND
ACTION, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, New Jersey]) has observed that in this
aspect, control theory fundamentally misstates the actual source of
motivation: 'The behavioral process... does not begin with a "test" of
the discrepancy between the standard and the actual states of affairs.
Instead, it begins with a preliminary and fundamental operation,
namely the construction of the standard itself, which, as a goal, is
at the origin of the action and directs its further course' (p. 145).
Similarly, Bandura (in press [A. Bandura, "Reflections on Nonability
Determinants of Competence," in J. Kolligan & R. Sternberg, eds.,
COMPETENCE CONSIDERED: PERCEPTIONS OF COMPETENCE AND INCOMPETENCE
ACROSS THE LIFESPAN, Yale University Press, New Haven]) noted that
GOAL SETTING IS FIRST AND FOREMOST A DISCREPANCY CREATING PROCESS.
Control theory begins in the middle rather than at the beginning of
the motivational sequence. To quote Bandura (in press):

       Human self-motivation relies on both DISCREPANCY PRODUCTION
       and DISCREPANCY REDUCTION. It requires FEEDFORWARD control as
       well as FEEDBACK control. People initially motivate themselves
       through feedforward control by setting themselves valued
       challenging standards that create a state of disequilibrium
       and then mobilizing their their effort on the basis of
       anticipatory estimation of what it would take to reach them.
       After people attain the standard they have been pursuing, they
       generally set a higher standard for themselves. The adoption
       of further challenges creates new motivating discrepancies to
       be mastered. Similarly, surpassing a standard is more likely
       to raise aspiration than to lower subsequent performance to
       conform to the surpassed standard. Self motivation thus
       involves a dual cyclic process of disequilibrating discrepancy
       production followed by equilibrating discrepancy reduction.
       (p. 23 of preprint)

"Figure 1-3 [not reproduced here] shows how little of the
motivational process contro, theory, in its 'core' version,
incorporates.
"The above is important because if discrepancy reduction is the
major motive, as implied by control theory, then the most logical
thing for an individual to do would simply be to adapt his or her goal
to the input. This would guarantee that there would be no disturbance
or discrepancy. Machines, of course, cannot do this because the
standard has been fixed by people at a certain level (as in setting a
thermostat). But people can and do change standards that diverge from
present performance. If the individual's major motive were to remove
disturbances, people would never do this. Control theorists argue that
lower-level goals are actually caused by goals at a higher level in
the individual's goal hierarchy (Carver & Scheier, 1982). But this
only pushes the problem back a step. Why should people set higher-
level goals if they only want to reduce tension? But in reality,
people do set goals and then act to attain them; they do not focus
primarily on eliminating disturbances. Removal of discrepancies and
any associated tension is a CORRELATE of goal-directed action, not its
cause. The causal sequence begins with setting the goal, not with
removing deviations from it.
"At a fundamental level, discrepancy reduction theories such as
control theory are inadequate because if people consistently acted in
accordance with them by trying to eliminate all disturbances, they
would all commit suicide -- because it would be the only way to
totally eliminate tension. If people chose instead to stay alive but
set no goals, they would soon die anyway. By the time they were forced
into action by desperate, unremitting hunger pangs, it would be too
late to grow and process the food they would need to survive.
"In their major work, Carver and Scheier (1981) denied that
discrepancy reduction is motivated by a desire to reduce a drive or
state of tension. But their own explanation as to why people at to
reduce discrepancies is quite puzzling. 'The shift [of action in the
direction of the goal or standard] is a natural consequence of the
engagement of a discrepancy-reducing feedback loop' (p. 145). This
statement, of course, explains nothing. Why is discrepancy reduction a
'natural consequence'? According to goal theory, BOTH discrepancy
creation AND discrepancy reduction occur for the same reason: because
people need and desire to attain goals. Such actions are required for
their survival, happiness, and well-being.
"A second problem with control theory is its very use of a machine
as a metaphor. The problem with such a metaphor is that it cannot be
taken too literally or it becomes highly misleading (e.g., see
Saundelands, Glynn, & Larson, 1988 [L.E. Sandelands, M.A. Glynn, &
J.R. Larson, "Task Performance and the 'Control' of Feedback,"
Columbia University, unpublished manuscript]). For example, people do
not operate within the deterministic, closed-loop system that control
theory suggests. In response to negative feedback,for example, people
can try harder or less hard. They can focus on the cause and perhaps
change their strategy. They can also lower the goal to match their
performance; in some cases they may raise their goal. Furthermore,
they can reinterpret the discrepancy as unimportant and ignore it or
can even totally deny it. They can also question the accuracy of the
feedback. They can go outside the system (by leaving the situation).
They can attack the person they hold responsible for the discrepancy.
They can become paralyzed by self-doubt and fear and do nothing. They
can drink liquor to blot out the pain. In short, they can do any
number of things other than respond in machinelike fashion.
Furthermore, people can feel varying degrees of satisfaction and
dissatisfaction, develop varying degrees of commitment to goals, and
assess their confidence in being able to reach them (Bandura, 1986).
These emotions, decisions, and estimates affect what new goals they
will set and how they will respond to feedback indicative of
deviations from the goal (Bandura, 1988). Control theory, insofar as
it stresses a mechanistic model, simply has no place for these
alternatives, which basically means that it has no place for
consciousness. Insofar as this is the case, the theory must fail for
the same reason behaviorism failed. Without studying and measuring
psychological processes, one cannot explain human action.
"One might ask why control theory could not be expanded so as to
accommodate the ideas and processes noted above. Attempts have been
made to do this, but when it is done, the machine language may still
be retained. Hyland (1988), for example, described the effects of goal
importance or commitment in terms of 'error sensitivity,' which is
represented diagrammatically by a box called an 'amplifier.'
Expectations and memory are represented as 'symbolic control loops.'
Decision making is done not by a person but by a 'selector.' What is
the benefit of translating relatively clear and well-accepted concepts
that apply to human beings into computer language that is virtually
incomprehensible when used to describe human cognition? The greater
the number of concepts referring to states or actions of consciousness
that are relabeled in terms of machine language, the more implausible
and incomprehensible the whole enterprise becomes. Nuttin (1984, p.
148) wrote on this: 'When behavioral phenomena are translated into
cybernetic and computer language, their motivational aspect is lost in
the process. This occurs because motivation is foreign to all
machines.'
"On the other hand, if additional concepts are brought into control
theory and not all relabeled in machine language (e.g., Lord & Hanges,
1987), then control theory loses its distinctive character as a
machine metaphor and becomes superfluous -- that is, a conglomeration
of ideas borrowed from OTHER theories. And if control theory does not
make the needed changes and expansions, it is inadequate to account
for human action. Control theory, therefore, seems to be caught in a
triple bind from which there is no escape. If it stays strictly
mechanistic, it does not work. If it uses mechanistic language to
relabel concepts referring to consciousness, it is incomprehensible.
And if it uses nonmechanistic concepts, it is unoriginal. It has been
argued that control theory is useful because it provides a general
model into which numerous other theories can be integrated (Hyland,
1988). However, a general model that is inadequate in itself cannot
successfully provide an account of the phenomena of other theories.
"In their book, Carver cand Scheier (1981) examined the effect of
individual differences in degree of internal focus versus external
focus in action. While this presentation is more plausible than the
mechanistic versions of control theory, most of it actually has little
to do with control theory as it relates to goal setting. For example,
they discuss how expectancies and self-focus affect performance but do
not examine the goal-expectancy literature (as we do in Chapter 3).
And some of their conclusions (such as that self-efficacy does not
affect performance directly) contradict actual research findings. Only
one actual goal setting study (not in Carver and Scheier's book) has
used the self-focus measure. Hollenbeck and Williams (1987) found that
self-focus only affected performance as part of a triple interaction
in which ability was not controlled. Thus it remains to be seen how
useful the measure is, either as a moderator or as a mediator of goal
setting effectiveness.
"There is also a conceptual problem with the prediction that the
relation between goals and performance will be higher among those high
in self-focus than those low in self-focus. Goal attainment requires,
over and above any internal focus, an EXTERNAL focus; most goals refer
to something one wants to achieve in the external world. Thus the
individual must monitor external feedback that shows progress in
relation to the goal in order to make progress toward it. Individuals
might focus internally as well (a) to remind ourselves of what the
goal is -- though this can also be done externally, as on a feedback
chart; (b) to retain commitment by reminding themselves of why the
goal is important; and (c) to assess self-efficacy. Furthermore,
depending on what is focused on, (e.g., self-encouraging thoughts or
self-doubt), an internal focus could either raise or lower goal-
relevant effort. In sum, the relation between where one is focused and
goal-relevant performance seems intuitively far more complex than is
recognized by the cognitive version of control theory.
"Finally, some have argued that control theory is original because
it deals with the issue of goal change (e.g., Campion & Lord, 1982).
However, goal change was actually studied first by level-of-aspiration
researchers in the 1930s and 1940s, so control theory can make no
claim of originality here. Nor can a mechanistic model hope to deal
adequately with issues involving human choice as noted above.
"In sum, the present authors do not see what control theory has
added to our understanding of the process of goal setting; all it has
done is to restate a very limited aspect of goal theory in another
language, just as was done by behavior mod advocates. Worse, control
theory, in its purest form, actually obscures understanding by
ignoring or inappropriately relabeling crucial psychological processes
that are involved in goal-directed action (these will be discussed in
subsequent chapters)."