Applying Disturbances

[From Bruce Gregory (970412.2255 EST)]

David Goldstein Date: 04/12/97

There is a talk show host, a Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who responds to
people who call her with personal problems. She answers them from a
religious/moral framework. There is definitely a right and wrong
answer. She sees few grey areas.

Usually she spends less than four or five minutes per call. I think she
is a good example of how applying disturbances could have a destructive
effect on a person. I would love to do a follow up study to evaluate
the impact of her shock approach.

Do you think that anyone would call her who was not expecting to
receive a moralistic sermon? In what way do you think her response
would be a disturbance to that expectation? I would think that Howard
Sern might constitute a disturbance to the variables controlled by
Sclessinger's audience...

Bruce

Bruce Gregory wrote in response to my post:

Do you think that anyone would call her who was not expecting to
receive a moralistic sermon? In what way do you think her response
would be a disturbance to that expectation? I would think that Howard
Sern might constitute a disturbance to the variables controlled by
Sclessinger's audience...

Bruce

Yes, I think that people are surprised by her answers even though they
must know her general reputation.

Howard Stern's guests are supposed to be terrified because while his
general reputation is known, he is unpredictable in a specific case.

As a joke, I thought it would be funny if Howard Stern called Dr. Laura
and they had a conversation over the air. Ms. Superego and Mr. Id in
conversation, think about it.

I am sure that therapists have done harm to patients in different ways.
In Psychology, there is a code of ethics to discourage certain
happenings. This code of ethics grew from experience and harm done, I
feel sure. For example, there is a rule about not having a double
relationship with a patient. It is not OK to go into business with
someone who is a patient. Another example, there is a rule about no
romantic relationships with patients.

The point I think is that one has to be careful about applying
disturbances. Disturbances are not always words, they could be more
complex things, as in the examples above. People who enter therapy are
, by definition, out of control and in the process of reorganizing.
They are not well functioning control systems. Self-harm and harming
others is an outcome to be avoided and is an outcome the therapist must
keep in mind when working with fragile people.

Applying disturbances should be done carefully, but they have to be
done to find out about the person.

···

From: David Goldstein
Subject: Applying Disturbances
Date: 04/13/97

[From Bill Powers (970413.0745 MST)]

From: David Goldstein
Subject: Applying Disturbances
Date: 04/13/97

Applying disturbances should be done carefully, but they have to be
done to find out about the person.

That's true if there are no natural disturbances that the person is trying
to counteract by behaving. In a formal therapy session, I suppose, the only
source of present-time disturbances is the therapist. If you see people in
their natural habitats, with their families or at work, I don't think you'd
need any artificially generated disturbances. This may be what makes group
or family therapy, or 12-step and support-group programs, different from
one-on-one counselling or laboratory research.

We have to keep in mind, also, that behavior is not just homeostatic. Life
does not consist of waiting inertly for a disturbance to resist. People have
desires, ambitions, occupations, professions, and interests, and to pursue
them they must initiate behaviors that will change what is into what they
want. They would do so even if no disturbances ever occurred (not likely).
Bandura and his cohort are quite right in pointing out that goal-setting is
as important as goal-achievement; it is the evidence of higher levels of
organization. Goal-driven behavior is "proactive" as well as "reactive." If
you consider only the role of disturbances in behavior, you're looking only
at the reactive component.

It's the nature of some higher-level reference conditions that they require
continuous action to be satisfied. Some people say, "I like to keep busy."
As a reference condition, this goal can never be satisfied in the sense of
being achieved once and for all so the person can relax after achieving it.
To achieve it is to be continually setting new lower-order reference
conditions, and changing them, and continually acting to maintain them in
perception. In one sense, the goal of keeping busy can be satisfied
instantly, but it can't be _maintained_ without continuous action.

This continuous action can't be attributed to canceling disturbances. It
occurs even without disturbances. As numerous people have pointed out, the
Test really can't be done except in special circumstances, where for a time
there would be no action if it weren't for disturbances. This isn't hard to
arrange, but clearly in order to apply the Test "on the fly," in the middle
of a busy life, we would need to monitor many variables and we would need a
mathematics that could solve the equations not only for perceptual
variables, but for reference signals. I have no doubt that this could be
done, but to do it we would need a combination of mathematical skill,
experimental aptitude, and instrumentation that have not yet appeared in one
package.

It's important to remember the active aspects of control behavior, because
(I think) most of the problems people have are not concerned with
disturbances, but with the inability to act to oppose them. This inability
to act can arise from many sources; poor perception, poor conversion of
error into action, or -- probably the most important -- inner conflict.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (970413.1120 EST)]

David Goldstein Date: 04/13/97

Yes, I think that people are surprised by her answers even though they
must know her general reputation.

Isn't that interesting? It suggests that her callers are so desperate
for acceptance that they will court certain rejection in the hope of
getting it. I agree that this unlikely to be therapeutic. More likely to
confirm their experience that they cannot exercise control -- that they
are truly unworthy. Sounds like sadomasochism...

Bruce

Thanks Bill. I didn't mean to say that the only way we know about a
person is to apply disturbances.

The purpose of applying disturbances is to check out whether a person
has some specific goal.

In most everyday circumstances, we are making educated guesses.

My cat jumps into the refrigerator and also scampers into a room whose
door is briefly opened. We can lure him out by food but I don't think
that was his goal in both circumstances. We can make him leave these
places by shaking keys but I don't think this tells us about his goals
for approaching these places.

His resists being physically removed from both places so I know he wants
to be there. But I can only guess at what his goal is.

Applying disturbances to reveal goals is an art form, even in the case
of this cat.

David

···

From: David Goldstein
Subject: Re: Applying Disturbances
               Bill Powers (970413.0745 MST)
Date: 4/13/97

[From Bruce Gregory 9970414.1000 EST)]

David Goldstein

Applying disturbances to reveal goals is an art form, even in the case
of this cat.

Applying disturbances to reveal goals is an art _especially_ in
the case of cats.

bruce