Applied PCT, Operant Research

[From Rick Marken (950801.2145)]

Bill Powers (950801.0810 MDT) to Rick Marken (950731.2130) --

Good idea on starting an applications thread.

Yeah. The follow-up traffic on it has been pretty hot and heavy;-)

The interest in discussing applications seems somewhat less than
overwhelming. Do those who voted for a separate applications list
still think it's necessary?

Joel Judd's [950802.0755] post fits right in

Boy, does it!

That was a wonderful post, Joel. Great synchronicity. You made the
same point I was trying to make in my applications post, only better.
You said:

The fact is, those most likely to actually EMPLOY some understanding
of psychology in their daily activities with large numbers of other
people are being taught S-R and its derivatives as a basis for making
plans [e.g., lessons] and carrying them out.

Right on target.

And I disagree completely with Martin Taylor's ( 950801 11:20) claim
that what you say:

isn't really a statement about psychology. It's a statement about
everyday life.

In fact, it's a statement about both. But psychologists are supposed to be
the ones who tell us what is really going on in everyday life; how
behavior really works. And they have been teaching a cause-effect view
of behavior for the last 100 plus years. If they had been teaching a
control of perception view of behavior, then the everyday view of
behavior (like the everyday life view of the nature of matter) might
be quite different.

Bill Powers (950801.1710 MDT) --

I think we're getting a handle on how to set up experimen conditions
that really show control... It's a damned good thing that we didn't go
ahead and set up a "control" experiment based on my initial model of
Staddon's data!

This would betrue if we were planning to do the experiment the way a
conventional researcher might do it. In fact, we would probably not
begin serious data collection until there was pretty good evidence that a
variable was under control. If you did set up the experiment based on
your initial model of Staddon's data, I think you would still have
wanted to test for control of reinforcement rate using disturbances. If
the rat really is producing maximum effort at all ratios it would
become clear pretty quickly that disturbances (like non-contingent
addition of pellets) are not resisted (except, perhaps, at the lowest ratio).

When we do control experiments (that are aimed at studying control
rather than learning to control) we typically go to some effort to ensure
that the subject can control. If (as seems to be the case) rats in the
typical scheduling experiment cannot control the consequences of their
actions (reinforcement), I'm sure you would notice this within the first
hour of testing. Compare this to the fact that you've been analyzing
the Staddon-Motherall data for over a decade and never noticed that
there was no control until Bruce Abbott did his analysis of time taken
per reinforcement for different ratios.

So, while it is certainly fun to play with the numbers and estimate
what might be the best way to deliver reinforcements so that there is
control, I think it would have been more efficient and informative to have
just done a control experiment in the first place. That was the point of
what you perceived as my annoying comments to Bruce -- and I (like
Tom) still heartily agree with myself;-)

Best

Rick

[Martin Taylor 950802 11:10]

Rick Marken (950801.2145) to Joel Judd

And I disagree completely with Martin Taylor's ( 950801 11:20) claim
that what you say:

isn't really a statement about psychology. It's a statement about
everyday life.

If you disagree completely with what I say, I must have put it extremely
badly, because I agree completely with what you say in the following:

In fact, it's a statement about both. But psychologists are supposed to be
the ones who tell us what is really going on in everyday life; how
behavior really works. And they have been teaching a cause-effect view
of behavior for the last 100 plus years. If they had been teaching a
control of perception view of behavior, then the everyday view of
behavior (like the everyday life view of the nature of matter) might
be quite different.

The question is "How could they have been doing so?" Given that an
understanding of control requires at least some understanding of simple
engineering, and that maths and engineering are not normally prerequisites
for graduate work in psychology, how could the teachers have been teaching
control theory? And since control theory as a psychological theory has
been around for only 40 years (less than connectionist theory, for example),
how could one have expected most teachers to be teaching it competently,
even supposing it had caught on in the 1960s? There are still not very
many who understand the basics of connectionism (which, by the way, has
nothing to do with S-R; HPCT describes a connectionist system).

You are quite correct in what you say. The question is whether it is
possible to do soemthing so that a writer in 2095 will not be likely
to write the same kind of paragraph.

Oh, Brave New World (Shakespear, not Huxley version)!

Martin