Arm (to B.P.); Influence Summary

From Greg Williams (920928)



Attn. Bill Powers: Getting photos made sounds OK. I just hope they're in the
$20 range, not the $100 range! I'll work on the paper corrections today and
get them to you this week. I assume that you'll print out the figure captions


In the belief that what Gregory Bateson has termed "double description" might
be usefully applied to our discussion on "influence," I offer the following
TENTATIVE summary, to be compared and contrasted with Bill's summary (which I
have not yet read). MULTIPLE description might be even more useful. I hope
others will provide comments on, corrections to, and elaborations of both the
following and Bill's summary.

Because labeling/terminology has proven problematic in this discussion --
unnecessarily so, I believe -- in the following, I have tried to avoid all
interpretive wording which relates PCT ideas to folk and sociological terms
(such as "influence," "manipulation," "exploitation," "facilitation,"
"domination," and "aggression"). This doesn't mean that I don't think that
defining (at least some of the) conventional terms in PCT terms is an
important undertaking. But that remains for the future.

An aside: What's going on in HYPNOSIS in PCT terms???



(The "might" is significant. PCT says that the following methods are possible
in theory, but extra-PCT considerations might make any one of them difficult
or even impossible in certain cases.)

1. A disturbs particular perceptions being controlled by B so that B
compensates for the disturbances with actions which A wants to perceive.

2. A arranges B's environment so that when B controls for particular
perceptions, A perceives what he/she wants to perceive.

3. A arranges B's environment so as to trigger learning/reorganization in B's
control system resulting in actions which A wants to perceive.

4. A applies physical constraints or threatens to apply physical constraints
to B so that B's actions are as A wants to perceive.

5. Combinations of the above.

No other methods are possible.

In methods 1 and 2, B's control system functioning is not conflicted; in
methods 3 and 4, it is conflicted.



1. Current operation of an organism's control system (not undergoing
learning/reorganization) is a function of current reference signals, current
input/output functions, and current environmental disturbances.

2. Current reference signals and current input/output functions are functions
of the path of the most recent bout of learning/reorganization.

3. Onset of learning/reorganization at a particular time is a function of
reference signals, input/output functions, and environmental disturbances at
that time.

4. The path of learning/reorganization is a function of (possibly randomly
generated) successive sets of changes in reference signals and/or input/output
functions, each successive set of changes being made to the result of the
previous set of changes, and another set of changes being made only if certain
criteria are not met for ceasing learning/reorganization.

5. Whether or not the criteria for ceasing learning/reorganization are met by
the reference signals and/or input/output functions at any point on the path
of learning/reorganization is a function of reference signals, input/output
functions, and environmental disturbances at that point.

(Note: Here it is assumed that memories of environmental disturbances count as
environmental disturbances, so that, for example, the disturbance of being
called a "pig" would, as a memory, continue to act as a disturbance perhaps
for a long time after the sound waves had dissipated, with similar results as
if "pig" were being repeated over and over again by the disturber.)

6. At any time, the criteria for ceasing learning/reorganization are functions
of reference signals and input/output functions at that time.

Best wishes,


FR Clark McPhail (921001_

RE Greg Williams (920928)

An aside: What's going on in HYPNOSIS in PCT terms???

I am not surprised that someone concerned with "influence" would be
concerned with the "ultimate" form of "social control": hypnosis. My
impression for years was that hypnosis works because the subject focuses
upon and tells him/herself to do exclusively what he/she is instructed to
do by the hypnotist. Then I discovered with work of Theodore X. Barber, a
psychologist who is now retired but who examined the phenomenon of hypnosis
across a forty year span of time. Simply stated, Barber rejects the
"trance state" theory of hypnosis and has generated a considerable body of
empirical evidence supporting his critique. Further, Barber has advanced
an alternative interpretation which turns the commonsense view of hypnosis
on its head. Instead of the subject-as-passive receptacle of the
hypnotist's suggestions, Barber construes subjects as exercising variable
degrees of imagination; that is, they are variably capable of imagining
the outcome the hypnotist "suggests" and then carrying out the actions
require to fulfill what they have imagined. In one experiment he compared
the performances of a standard repertoire of "hypnotic feats" (e.g., the
plank posture, arm levitation, locked clasped hands, verbal inhibition,
posthypnotic response, selective amnesia and analgesia, etc) for 40
subjects who had been through a standard 15 minute trance induction
procedure, 40 subjects who had been through a brief sequence of "positive
suggestions" ("You can do these things and it will be a lot of fun. . ."),
and 40 "control" subjects. The subjects in the "positive suggestions"
condition exceeded the performances of the subjects in the "trance
induction" condition (and the control subjects as well). A synopsis of many
of Barbers experimental papers, which numbered over 150 at last count, of
his critique of the hypnotic trance state hypothesis, and of his
alternative interpretation of hypnosis, are found in his (1972) "Suggested
('Hypnotic") Behavior: The Trance Paradigm vs. An Alternative Paradigm."
Pp. 115-182 in Erica Fromm and Ronald E. Short (eds.) _Hypnosis: Research
Developments and Perspectives_, Chicago: Aldine. (You will find a short
synopsis of Barber's work and a limited set of references in my (1991)
book, _The Myth of the Madding Crowd_. This is not a "PCT" interpretation
of hypnosis but it leans in a direction that might be recast in such terms.

A related aside. What is going on in the hierarchy of perceptual control
systems when individuals ingest small, moderate, large amounts of alcohol?
Heroin? cocaine? marijuana? Do these simply affect the operation, e.g.,
the loop gain, of every control system or might these turn off higher level
systems? I would appreciate any comment on these matters (and on hypnosis)
from anyone on the loop.