Apparent S-R behaviour: what goes on?

[Martin Taylor 921015 16:00]

The following question probably indicates that my understanding of PCT is
less secure than I have been believing it to be, but here goes, anyway.

On two occasions recently. I observed what seems on the face of it to be S-R
behaviour--the situational context causing a non-functional behaviour to be
executed. On one of those occasions, I was the actor, and it felt as if this
behaviour was "extracted" automatically from me rather than being the control
of any perception of which I was then (or now) aware. Here's the situation.

Event 1: I was carrying a door upstairs in my house. The stairs have rather
nice panelling on the side. As I turned the corner at the top, the swing of
the door caused it to bump the panelling lightly. I immediately said "Sorry"
and then wondered why I did so. As a conditioned response in the S-R tradition,
it's easy to understand. But where does it fit in PCT?

Event 2 is very similar. I was approaching a double door that has glass windows
as its upper panels. When I was about 5 yards away, a woman came through in
the other direction. When she opened the door, through which she could easily
see anyone on my side, the door bumped a cardboard box she had not sees, left
by a cleaner or somebody. She also said "Sorry" immediately, even though she
was well aware she had not hit anyone.

The trigger for writing this note was Bill's comment on dialing the old phone
number for someone whose number recently changed. It's not quite the same
situation, but there seems to be something in common.

Bill, or anyone: is there a straightforward PCT interpretation of this
immediate execution of "Sorry" following a bump when one is well aware that
there is no-one there to accept the apology. I imagine that this situation
has many analogues in other contexts, and it is a bit puzzling at present.


[Oded Maler 921016]

* [Martin Taylor 921015 16:00]

If you have an explanation of how saying "sorry" while bumping
into a person works (btw, not in all cultures..) then the phenomenon
you described can be explained by a misclassification of the complex
perceptual variable "I just hit a person". Perceiving hitting is more
elmentary the identifying personhood. When you are busy doing other tasks (your
higher levels are occupied) you don't have time to to have a refined
perecption of a non-person/person within the time-scale of the "sorry" loop,
which is located rather low in your hierarchy.

Being infinitely fast means never having to say that you are sorry.

Sorry if it is not in exact but rather in qualitative PCT terms.




Oded Maler, LGI-IMAG (Campus), B.P. 53x, 38041 Grenoble, France
Phone: 76635846 Fax: 76446675 e-mail:

Perhaps there is. The response in a situation where one needs to say
"Sorry" should be immediate, otherwise there is suspicion that the
response was not representative of real feelings. Shannon, and for
that matter Wiener remarked essentially that the longer you can
accumulate channel traffic before trying to understand it, the better
your rejection of noise is going to be. The need for rapid response
always ups the error rate. Hence the Iranian Airbus. A central question
is whether toi push your hypothesis tester towards type A or type B
errors, i.e. in a street gunfight to risk being shot or to risk
shooting an innocent bystander.

    John Gabriel (