Are Engineers More Attracted to PCT Than Others

[From Rick Marken (2017.06.03.1150)]

···

Richard Pfau (2017.06.02 12:35 EDT)–

Are
Engineers More Attracted to PCT Than Others?

Â

I
think that Sean Mullugan’s point [shown below] that “the engineering student would be the
easiest to convinceâ€? is on target. Engineering
students and perhaps other engineers should be targeted for exposure to PCT.

RM: Aside from the fact that I would leave the targeting of people for “convincing” to salesman and propagandists (I would prefer to provide people with data and models and let them convince themselves, if they are willing and able to do that) I would argue that engineers are no more able to understand and/or accept PCT than anyone else and possibly less so. I base this on the fact that people trained in engineering have applied control theory in psychology for years, in the sub-discipline called “engineering psychology”, and they have shown no evidence of understanding or accepting PCT.Â

RM: Actually, the application of control theory in psychology started well before PCT came on the scene (engineering psychology started in about 1947; PCT in about 1960). While the engineers who do engineering psychology understand control theory and can apply the tools of control theory (Laplace transforms, Bode plots, etc) to behavior, they map control theory to behavior in a way that is consistent with a view of behavior as caused output. One of the main problems with this “mis-mapping” is that it places what in PCT is the autonomously variable reference for the state of a controlled variable out in the environment rather than in the control system. This rather egregious mistake doesn’t prevent engineering psychologists from analyzing the dynamic behavior of the system; but it does prevent them from seeing behavior as a process of controlling perceptual aspects of the environment relative to autonomously set (and variable) reference states.Â

RM: Some time ago, for a PCT conference in Wales, I wrote a little essay describing the difference between the application of control theory to behavior in engineering psychology and in PCT psychology. I never published it (it was published in the proceedings of the conference, Marcos and Lee (Eds), 1994 Â “Perceptual Control Theory”, University of Wales) but here’s a copy if you are interested.Â

https://www.dropbox.com/s/uyzx6vgddy6k1t6/ThermoPeople.doc?dl=0

RM: Evidence that engineers – particularly control engineers – may be even more unwilling to accept PCT than ordinary mortals comes from an experience Bill and I had trying to explain to some engineering psychologists a PCT model of an apparently adaptive behavior (an apparent change in system characteristics with a change in the weight of an object whose position is being controlled by a controller). While we were unable to convince these engineers that the PCT model provided a more parsimonious explanation of the phenomenon they observed, the work we (mainly Bill) did became Chapter 5 in LCS III. At the end of that chapter is a reference to the book “Control theory of humans” written by the engineers with whom we were dealing. Oh, and my book review of that book (http://www.mindreadings.com/BookReview.htm) also discusses the problems control engineers have understanding control theory as applied to living systems, ie. PCT).Â

RM: And finally, if LCS IV ever gets published, my chapter in that book is all about the difference between the engineering and PCT approach to understanding living control systems. The difference is between the approach of the engineer, who wants to build systems that control well, and that of the psychologist, who wants to understand the controlling done by already built systems that control as well as they do.Â

RM: A nice, clear and brief description of the problems of applying control theory to the behavior of living systems from the engineering perspective is described in the  “Four Blunders” section of Powers (1978), Quantitative analysis of purposive systems, Psych. Review,  85, 417-435).Â

RM: The engineering approach applied to understanding living systems biases one to apply control theory in S-R terms with references (set points) outside the system and outputs as the variables controlled by the system. Only Powers applied control theory from a psychological perspective, properly seeing references as being inside the system and inputs as the variables controlled by the system. My experience is that it is much easier to understand and accept the psychological (PCT) application of control theory to behavior if one has not already been trained in using the engineering application.Â

Best regards

Rick


Richard S. MarkenÂ

"Perfection is achieved not when you have nothing more to add, but when you
have nothing left to take away.�
                --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

[From Dag Forssell (2017.06.03.1330 PDT)]

[From Rick Marken (2017.06.03.1150)]

I see that you get Richard Pfau's post. I still don't. What could possibly be the difference?

A quick reply to your musings...

1) Why not mention that Powers (1978), Quantitative analysis of purposive systems, Psych. Review, � 85, 417-435) is reprinted in LCS I, page 129 ff. Credit Greg Williams for that.

2) There are not just control engineers out there. To me, a major difference between engineers and most others, unfortunately including psychologists, is that engineers have some grasp of natural science. They are equipped to understand an honest to goodness explanation, while psychologists expect nothing other than verbal descriptions and personal interpretations.

Best, Dag

[From Rick Marken (2017.06.03.1445)]

···

Dag Forssell (2017.06.03.1330 PDT)

DF: I see that you get Richard Pfau’s post. I still don’t. What could possibly be the difference?

 RM: Actually, I am still retrieving Richard’s posts from my spam folder.

DF: A quick reply to your musings…

DF: 1) Why not mention that Powers (1978), Quantitative analysis of purposive systems, Psych. Review, Â 85, 417-435) is reprinted in LCS I, page 129 ff. Credit Greg Williams for that.

RM: I usually do mention that but was too lazy this time. Thanks for mentioning it yourself. As I’ve said before, that was that paper that turned me (well, allowed me to turn myself) into a PCT fanatic. I consider it the most important paper Bill ever wrote; it’s the one where Bill nailed his theses to the door of scientific psychology.Â

Â

DF: 2) There are not just control engineers out there. To me, a major difference between engineers and most others, unfortunately including psychologists, is that engineers have some grasp of natural science. They are equipped to understand an honest to goodness explanation, while psychologists expect nothing other than verbal descriptions and personal interpretations.

RM: Look, I’m a big fan of engineers; many of my best friends are engineers. All I’m saying is that you can’t guarantee that someone will “get” PCT just because they are an engineer just as you can’t guarantee that someone will not get it because they are a psychologist. If you believe engineers are better able to  get PCT than psychologists then you are opening yourself up to some embarrassing exceptions. I worked for 15 years at a company made up largely of engineers with PhDs in various fields of astrophysics. And I was surprised to find that a group of  these PhD engineers were having weekly lunch hour bible meetings! On the other hand, when I was in grad school I hung out with PhD psychologists who were developing mathematical models of perceptual systems and were well aware of the fact that religion is make believe.

RM: The lesson: Stereotyping is wrong, whether it’s based on race or professional training. It always ends up producing bad results.Â

Best

Rick

Richard S. MarkenÂ

"Perfection is achieved not when you have nothing more to add, but when you
have nothing left to take away.�
                --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

[From Dag Forssell (2017.06.03.2010 PDT)]

[Rick Marken (2017.06.03.1445)]

And I was surprised to find that a group of  these PhD engineers were having weekly lunch hour bible meetings!

I remember a fellow who wrote about dogma in Psychology.

I have come to think of contemporary psych as a religion.

To me, it has many of the qualities of world religions.

To me, all religions can be considered to be attempts to explain what is going on in our lives, whether forest spirits, gods of love or war, or holy gosts. Honest attempts, but mistaken and misleading. So it is with contemporary psych.

Powers has been up against true faith all these years. That would be a very good reason/explanataion for the lack of progress so far.

I am interested in exposing engineers to PCT on the assumption that they have not had to make an investment for many years and buy into the cult, and are not dependent on the fabric of the cult society for their livelihood.

Best, Dag

[From Dag Forssell (2017.06.03.2010 PDT)]

[Rick Marken (2017.06.03.1445)]

<snip>

And I was surprised to find that a group of � these PhD engineers were having weekly lunch hour bible meetings!

I remember a fellow who wrote about dogma in Psychology.
I have come to think of contemporary psych as a religion.
To me, it has many of the qualities of world religions.

To me, all religions can be considered to be attempts to explain what is going on in our lives, whether forest spirits, gods of love or war, or holy gosts. Honest attempts, but mistaken and misleading. So it is with contemporary psych.

Powers has been up against true faith all these years. That would be a very good reason/explanataion for the lack of progress so far.

I am interested in exposing engineers to PCT on the assumption that they have not had to make an investment for many years and buy into the cult, and are not dependent on the fabric of the cult society for their livelihood.

Best, Dag

[From Rick Marken (2017.06.04.1750)]

···

Dag Forssell (2017.06.03.2010 PDT)–

RM: And I was surprised to find that a group of  these PhD engineers were having weekly lunch hour bible meetings!

DF: Â I have come to think of contemporary psych as a religion. To me, it has many of the qualities of world religions…Â

DF: Powers has been up against true faith all these years. That would be a very good reason/explanataion for the lack of progress so far.

DF: I am interested in exposing engineers to PCT on the assumption that they have not had to make an investment for many years and buy into the cult, and are not dependent on the fabric of the cult society for their livelihood.

RM: Well, best of luck with that.Â

Best

Rick


Richard S. MarkenÂ

"Perfection is achieved not when you have nothing more to add, but when you
have nothing left to take away.�
                --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

[From: Richard Pfau (2017.06.02 12:35 EDT)]

Are
Engineers More Attracted to PCT Than Others?

Â

I
think that Sean Mullugan’s point [shown below] that “the engineering student would be the
easiest to convinceâ€? is on target. Engineering
students and perhaps other engineers should be targeted for exposure to PCT.

Â

I
say this, in part, because I am part engineer, as was Bill Powers, and are
others drawn to PCT including Martin Taylor and Dag Forssell. Perhaps others on csgnet are too
(it would be interesting to do a survey).

Â

In
my own case, coming from the “hard sciencesâ€? to psychology at the BA level
after flunking out of 3 years of engineering studies and 4 years at a polytechnic/engineering
high school, I have felt that psychology was (and
still mostly is) in “The Middle Agesâ€? – a pre-science. I felt that way until I discovered PCT and
was immediately drawn to it – PCT resonating with me apparently beccause of its
more scientific, meta-theoretical, and less-abstract nature. (You can see Chapter 9 and the Preface of my
book Your Behavior for more reasons.)

Â

In
short, engineering students seem like an especially good target group for PCT
exposure and possible acceptance. Psychology
courses grounded in PCT and other learning opportunities provided to them seem
like a good idea. Perhaps to other engineers who have an interest in human behavior too.

Â

···

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: richardpfau4153@aol.com
Date: Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 12:36 PM
Subject: Are Engineers More Attracted to PCT Than Others
To: csgnet@lists.illinois.edu


Below are excerpts
from previous csgnet discussions that led to the above thoughts:

Â

[From Rick Marken (2017.05.26.1605)]

Â

RM: I don’t believe that some people are more
“convincable” (have lower switching costs) regarding PCT than others.

Â

From:

Sean Mulligan

Â

Sat, May 27, 2017
1:31 am

Â

SM:
I’m leaning toward the opposite viewpoint at the moment. For example take three
undergraduate students, two psychology students and an engineering student, all
academically sharp and almost finished their degree. Psychology student 1
has only been exposed to general undergraduate course content. Psychology
student 2 has read about cybernetics, complex systems theory concepts and
system dynamics modelling. The engineering student has completed advanced maths,
circuit design and a dedicated course in control theory. Who would you bet on
having an easier time to understand PCT? Who would be more likely to adopt
it?Â

Â

I
would argue that the engineering student would be the easiest to convince
because he understands how the math works underneath the theory, he has no
doubts about the theoretical foundation. The systems psychology student
would have an easier time of it, but as she does not know advanced maths, she
is taking it on faith that the foundations of the model are rigorous. The
average psychology student would probably give up quickly, confused by the
jargon and completely unequipped to even make a critical evaluation on the
theory.Â

Â

[From Rick Marken (2017.05.28.1045)]

Â

RM:
In the early years of CSGNet (early 1990s) we had a control engineer join the
discussion. He became one of the most vigorous opponents of PCT. About 10 years
ago Bill and I engaged with some control engineers, demonstrating how a
hierarchical control system could account for the apparent
“adaptation” that was observed  to changes in the order of the
control loop (proportional to integral, for example). The control engineers
vigorously opposed the elegant PCT solution, which, by the way, became Chapter
5 in Powers’ Living Control Systems III: The Fact of Control. I think the
evidence, limited as it is, argues strongly against your prediction.Â

Â

[Martin Taylor 2017.05.28.14.41]

If you are talking about Hans Blom, I don’t think he was at all opposed to PCT.
What he was opposed to was a voluble and dogmatic refusal to permit expression
of the thought that it is appropriate to use with PCT some mathematical tools
that he believed could be useful. His opposition was to dogmatism, not PCT. ….