Basic and Meta PCT

[From Rick Marken (971201.2215)]

Bruce Abbott (971201.2030 EST) --

It's not that I don't like PCT, it's that I don't agree with
some of what I call "meta-PCT."

What you call "meta-PCT" is _basic_ PCT.

So I differ with the Convinced on a number of points, so what?

Look at some of the "meta" points on which you differ with the
"Convinced":

1. You see value in group methods . PCT is a model of the individual
and you learn nothing about an individual from group results.

2. You see value in the conventional IV-DV approach to behavioral
research. PCT shows that the IV-DV relationships found in such
research are useless (they reveal nothing about controlled
variables) and misleading (the appearance that the IV-DV
relationship reveals something about the organism is the
behavioral illusion).

3. You claim that variables like "incentives" and "reinforcers"
are consistent with the idea that organisms are input control
systems yet you vigorusly object to identifying these variables
as what they are in PCT -- controlled perceptual variables.

4. You see value in the results of conventional psychological
research. Yet none of this research makes it possible for
a control theorist to determine what perceptual variables might
have been controlled by individual organsims.

5. You see no significant difference between conventional IV-DV
research and The Test. The difference is that The Test is organized
around the discovery of controlled variables; IV-DV research
ignores (and depends for validity on the absence of) controlled
variables

Basic PCT is very simple: Organisms control perceptual variables.
In order to understand the behavior of an organism an observer
must determine what perceptual variables the organism is
controlling.

That is _basic_ PCT. Now look at your "meta" issues in terms of
basic PCT. Group reseach tells you nothing about the perceptual
variables an organism controls. IV-DV research tells you nothing
about the perceptual variables organisms control. Calling
events in world by names that imply a causal role that these
events cannot possibly have diverts attention from the possibility
that these events may be aspects of controlled perceptual variables.
The results of conventional psychologcal research tell you nothing
about the perceptual variables organisms control. The difference
between conventional IV-DV research and The Test is that, in the
latter, there is an explicit identification of hypothetical
_controlled percpetual variables_.

So all of your disagreements with "meta-PCT" have one thing in
common: they all say "the determination of controlled perceptual
variables is no big thing". On top of that, you often imply that
controlled variables _can_ be inferred from existing research data, even
though you yourself have shown (in the one case where an
attempt was actually made to determine the variable controlled
in a conventional operant experiment) that the data don't allow it.

The heart of the issue is _controlled variables_. You believe
that controlled variables are no big deal, that conventional
psychology is well aware of them (by other names) and that
their existance is delt with perfectly adequately in the
context of existing behavioral science models and methods. I
don't see how it is possible for anyone to believe anything
that is more perfectly opposed to basic PCT.

No, yours are not disagreements with "meta-PCT", pal. They are
_all_ disagreements with the most basic tenet of the PCT model:
that behavior is the control of perception.

If you can't tolerate a little diversity, I suggest you try
therapy (maybe by going up a level or three).

It looks like Bill and I will be seeing the same therapist;-) I
think Bill (9971201.1616 MST) has had it with your "diversity"
too.

So, both "conventional" psychologists and "control theorists"
agree that the only way to understand how a system works is to
manipulate variables under controlled conditions and observe
what happens to other variables in the system. I could have
_sworn_ you said research by "conventional psychologists" was
all crap because they do this.

No, I never said that. The reason the conventional IV-DV approach
is "crap" (from a PCT perspective) is because there is 1) no
identification of a hypothetical controlled variable 2) no
selection of a variable as an independent variable because it would
be a disturbance to the hypothetical controlled variable 3) no
monitoring of the hypothetical controlled variable while the disturbance
is applied 4) no attempt to formulate a new hypothesis
about the controlled variable if the disturbance has more effect
than would be expected if the hypothetical controlled variable
were actually under control 5) no attempt to validate control by
determining that the actions of the system are the reason for
the lack of effect of disturbances when an apparent controlled variable
is identified.

Me:

There is a difference -- a BIG difference -- between what
conventional psychologists do when they "manipulate some variable
under controlled contitions and observe what happens to other
variables" and what a control theoriest does when he does this.
The difference (which you steadfastly refuse to recognize as
important) is described in my "Dancer..." paper.

Bruce replies:

The difference is that the control theorist does it with a little
flourish, right?

No, the difference is the five points above -- the points that
you steadfastly refuse to understand. We've been over them 100
times before. Why is this so hard for you?

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken/

[From Bruce Gregory (971202.1235 EST)]

Bruce Abbott (971201.1130 EST)]

>Rick Marken (971201.2215) --

>Bruce Abbott (971201.2030 EST)

>1. You learn nothing about an individual from group results.

    I agree. What I argued was not that one can learn about a
    particular individual from group results. I argued that group
    results can tell us about variables that act on individuals.

Here is the problem in a nutshell. In your world variables act
on individuals. In the PCT world indivuals act on variables. You
see no difference. We do.

>2. The IV-DV relationships found in [conventional]
> research are useless (they reveal nothing about controlled
> variables) and misleading (the appearance that the IV-DV
> relationship reveals something about the organism is the
> behavioral illusion).

    So, when "conventional" psychologists explore, say, how the ability
    to recall an event is influenced by the level of emotion experienced
    with respect to that event, their research is useless because it
    did not involve a Test for a controlled variable. When they investi-
    gate the factors influencing the size of a perceptual illusion, the
    research is useless because it did not involve a Test for a controlled
    variable. When they research the conditions under which people are
    likely to come to believe that they have recovered repressed memories
    of events that never actually happened, the findings are worthless
    because they did not identify a controlled variable. I find this
    unlikely in the extreme.

Your examples do not involve purposeful behavior. They are
analogous to the studies of the intestinal bleeding caused by
aspirin. If you suddenly find yourself bleeding from the inside,
it makes sense to ask yourself if you have been taking aspirin
recently. If not, you have to formulate another hypothesis.
(Reasoning that there is a forty percent chance that this
bleeding is due to aspirin consumption is beside the point.)

Bruce

[From Bruce Abbott (971201.1130 EST)]

Rick Marken (971201.2215) --

Bruce Abbott (971201.2030 EST)

It's not that I don't like PCT, it's that I don't agree with
some of what I call "meta-PCT."

What you call "meta-PCT" is _basic_ PCT.

You offer the following points as "basic" PCT:

1. You learn nothing about an individual from group results.

    I agree. What I argued was not that one can learn about a
    particular individual from group results. I argued that group
    results can tell us about variables that act on individuals.

2. The IV-DV relationships found in [conventional]
  research are useless (they reveal nothing about controlled
  variables) and misleading (the appearance that the IV-DV
  relationship reveals something about the organism is the
  behavioral illusion).

    So, when "conventional" psychologists explore, say, how the ability
    to recall an event is influenced by the level of emotion experienced
    with respect to that event, their research is useless because it
    did not involve a Test for a controlled variable. When they investi-
    gate the factors influencing the size of a perceptual illusion, the
    research is useless because it did not involve a Test for a controlled
    variable. When they research the conditions under which people are
    likely to come to believe that they have recovered repressed memories
    of events that never actually happened, the findings are worthless
    because they did not identify a controlled variable. I find this
    unlikely in the extreme.

3. "Incentives" and "reinforcers" are controlled perceptual variables.

    We have seen that they are not. They are things or conditions a
    person wants, which are offered contingent on accomplishing certain
    tasks. A controlled perceptual variable is something like the level
    of light falling on the book one is reading. The level of light is
    not an incentive or reinforcer (you do not "want" level-of-light),
    but having the light brighter than it currently is may be.

4. None of [conventional psychological] research makes it possible for
  a control theorist to determine what perceptual variables might
  have been controlled by individual organsims.

    I have identified several studies as counterexamples to this claim;
    indeed, any study identifying the "reinforcer" for a given behavior
    is providing information about what the CV may be.

5. The difference [between conventional IV-DV
  research and The Test] is that The Test is organized
  around the discovery of controlled variables.

    I agree; not an issue.

6. IV-DV research ignores (and depends for validity on the absence of)
  controlled variables.

    Too much of a blanket statement for me to agree with it. True of
    some "conventional" research but by no means all.

7. Group reseach tells you nothing about the perceptual variables an
  organism controls.

    Depends on whether you think that all individuals are totally unique,
    or that there is a degree of commonality across individuals. I'll
    bet that, even as you read this, you are controlling your posture,
    keeping your body temperature in a more-or-less comfortable state,
    maintaining your level of general nutrition and hydration, avoiding
    doing things you know would piss off Bill P., and reinterpreting every
    word I say to maintain your perception that I don't understand PCT.

8. IV-DV research tells you nothing about the perceptual variables
  organisms control.

    This is just Point 4 again.

9. Calling events in world by names that imply a causal role that
  these events cannot possibly have diverts attention from the
  possibility that these events may be aspects of controlled
  perceptual variables.

    This just begs the question and anyway, is certainly not "basic" PCT.

10.The results of conventional psychologcal research tell you nothing
  about the perceptual variables organisms control.

    This is just Point 8. again.

11.The difference between conventional IV-DV research and The Test is
  that, in the latter, there is an explicit identification of hypothetical
  _controlled percpetual variables_.

    This is just Point 5 again.

Here is my version of what is _Basic_ PCT:

1. Behavior is the control of perception.

2. Control exists at many levels, and is organized hierarchically, with
    higher-level systems setting the references of lower-level systems.

3. Control systems are physical systems whose components and signals can
    be identified in the body.

4. A proper model of a given control system will perform as the physical
    system does under the same conditions. The system and its initial
    conditions thus explain the performance of the physical system.

5. The performance of a control system cannot be analyzed by tracing
    cause and effect sequentially around the loop; each component must be
    analyzed as acting simultaneously.

6. "Behavioral laws" deduced by looking only at external input-output
    relations reveal the properties of the environment (feedback function)
    rather than those of the internal system (forward function).

7. One can identify the external correlate of the controlled perception
    by applying disturbances and looking for a lack of effect where one
    would be expected if control were absent (the "Test").

8. The "Test" can tell you what observable correlate of a controlled
    perception is being controlled, but it cannot tell you how the system
    came to be organized so as to control this variable.

9. In the hierarchy of control systems, lower-level variables are controlled
    (brought near their reference values), and to the extent that this
    control is successful, allow the higher-level systems to bring their
    controlled variables near their reference values. Thus, from the
    perspective of the higher-level system, the lower-level system is simply
    an output function that delivers (usually) something close to a specified
    output.

10. In the absence of all disturbance to all controlled perceptual
    variables, a person would do nothing -- not even daydream.

11. In a control system, output varies as necessary to counter the effects of
    disturbances to the system's controlled perception. (Variable means to
    constant ends.) In PCT it is taken as a given that the system is
    organized so as to employ a correct means to a given end. (PCT is not
    a theory of learning, but only deals with what is.)

There are probably others; I am sure that if I have missed any important
ones (or said something incorrectly above), these will be pointed out for
everyone's benefit.

Outside of these (and any I overlooked), the rest is "meta-PCT" as far as I
am concerned.

Sincerely,

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (971202.1008 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (971201.1130 EST)--

Here is my version of what is _Basic_ PCT:

Everything looks fine here except for

10. In the absence of all disturbance to all controlled perceptual
   variables, a person would do nothing -- not even daydream.

This would follow only if all controlled variables were static and their
reference states were their natural equilbrium states. Consider, however, a
controlled variable that consists of the sound-effort patterns of singing a
song. The song will not appear in perception unless the person actively
generates the required outputs. Or consider a controlled perception like
"getting enough exercise." Even a reference condition like "suitcase on
shelf" requires action to accomplish, even in the absence of independent
disturbances. Note that the weight of the suitcase is not a disturbance if
it isn't independent of the output, as it is not in this case (the
experienced weight does not appear until lifting starts. I just realized
this -- I've said things in the past that contradict it). A disturbance is
an _independent_ variable.

Many controlled variables are of such a nature that continued effort is
required to maintain them in a reference state. This would apply
specifically to all dynamic states like accelerations, velocities,
rotations, noninertial trajectories, patterns of repetition, sequences,
logical or mathematical procedures, and so on. To maintain such perceptions
in specific states, actions must be continually present and changing even
when no independent disturbances are acting.

One reason I responded to this seemingly minor point is that it is really a
basic thesis in many theories of behavior. It is the reason for asserting
that in the final analysis, all behavior is instigated by the environment.
Skinner, for example, scornfully dismissed spontaneous behavior because, he
said, it would be "capricious." In this modern electronic age, of course,
we understand how a system can spontaneously generate organized behavior as
soon as operating power is turned on, no external stimulus required. But
Skinner, and many others, did not, apparently, know that such systems could
exist.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Rick Marken (971202.1000)]

Bruce Abbott (971201.1130 EST)--

I argued that group results can tell us about variables that act
on individuals.

But this argument is wrong. We also pointed out that individual
studies are never done as follow-ups to the group studies. So
even if your argument were correct it would be irrelevant.

So, when "conventional" psychologists explore, say, how the ability
to recall an event is influenced by the level of emotion experienced
with respect to that event, their research is useless because it
did not involve a Test for a controlled variable.

Yes. It is useless as a study of control, so it is useless to
understanding purposeful behavior.

any study identifying the "reinforcer" for a given behavior is
providing information about what the CV may be.

I can't believe you could claim this after your (modest) experience
with PCT research on weight control. When you said this a couple years
ago I could attribute it to lack of understanding of control. Now,
it can only be the result of willful reluctance to understand control.

Me:

6. IV-DV research ignores (and depends for validity on the absence
of) controlled variables.

Ye:

Too much of a blanket statement for me to agree with it. True of
some "conventional" research but by no means all.

Can you to give me one example of a conventional research program
that is aimed at testing for controlled variables? One accidental
study (like the baseball catching study I refer to in the "Dancer..."
paper) does not impress me as evidence that "by no means all"
research ignores controlled variables.

Your description of basic PCT looks pretty good. Your ability to
produce such a description is somewhat surprising to me since it
contains many statements that seem (to me) to be at odds with
traditional (and fundamental) assumptions about the nature of
behavior. And you seem to be a rather staunch defender of traditional
psychology. So I look forward, with GREAT interest, to your reply to
Bill Powers' (971202.0610 MST) request that you:

...list the ideas in traditional psychology that in your view
_are_ in conflict with PCT, that would need to be changed if PCT
is valid. Are all the errors only errors of omission, as you
have implied? Or are there any basic concepts that would have
to be judged wrong if PCT is judged right?

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bruce Abbott (97120>2<.1355 EST)]

Oops, I've been using yesterday's date in previous posts today -- forgot to
reset my watch to skip November 31. (:-<

Bill Powers (971202.1008 MST) --

Bruce Abbott (971201.1130 EST)

                    ^
                    2

Here is my version of what is _Basic_ PCT:

Everything looks fine here except for

10. In the absence of all disturbance to all controlled perceptual
   variables, a person would do nothing -- not even daydream.

This would follow only if all controlled variables were static and their
reference states were their natural equilbrium states.

Yes, in which case there would be an absence of all disturbance, my
qualifying precondition. The point is technically correct, and I made it
simply because it does follow from PCT. No living organism ever finds
itself in this condition (there are always disturbances to controlled
variables (e.g., metabolic drains), and in fact action taken to control one
variable often disturbs other controlled variables. For this reason living
organisms are always actively controlling.

One reason I responded to this seemingly minor point is that it is really a
basic thesis in many theories of behavior. It is the reason for asserting
that in the final analysis, all behavior is instigated by the environment.
Skinner, for example, scornfully dismissed spontaneous behavior because, he
said, it would be "capricious." In this modern electronic age, of course,
we understand how a system can spontaneously generate organized behavior as
soon as operating power is turned on, no external stimulus required. But
Skinner, and many others, did not, apparently, know that such systems could
exist.

Can you provide the reference for this Skinner quote? Perhaps he did say
it, but I would be surprised to find that he did, unless he was taking
"spontaneous" to mean "uncaused." Behavior occurring for no cause would
violate basic determinism, which is assumed to hold at least in the macro
world of organisms (except perhaps by those such as Roger Penrose who argue
for some kind of macro amplification of quantum effects). Skinner assumed
that "sponaneous" behavior ("emitted" rather than "elicited") occurs all the
time, owing to unobserved factors within the organism in conjunction with
environmental conditions. Behavior that occurred without cause would
certainly qualify as "capricious."

Respectfully submitted,

Bruce

[From Rick Marken (971202.1100)]

Just noted another well placed "lapse" in Bruce Abbott's tenuous
(971201.1130 EST) grasp of PCT:

Me:

3. "Incentives" and "reinforcers" are controlled perceptual
variables.

Bruce:

We have seen that they are not. They are things or conditions a
person wants,

That's what a controlled variable is -- things and conditions (as
perceived) that people want.

which are offered contingent on accomplishing certain tasks.

As is a controlled variable.

A controlled perceptual variable is something like the level
of light falling on the book one is reading.

Right. To control this variable, you have to perform "tasks"
(move the book, adjust your reading position, move the lamp, etc)
to get it to (and maintain it at) the reference (wanted) state.

The level of light is not an incentive or reinforcer (you do not
"want" level-of-light)

Sure I do. I want certain levels of light in order to control for
other variables (high levels to control for reading and very low
levels to control for demonstrating the Cziko effect;-).

but having the light brighter than it currently is may be.

Ok. So an incentive is a state of the controlled variable that
is below the reference state. But what about when the light is
too bright (above the reference); isn't that an incentive to
turn it down;-)

Words like "incentive" and "reinforcer" refer to aspects of
the perceptual control process. The problem with them is
illustrated by your statement that "they are things or conditions
a person wants". This leads the Mozart deprived to think that
there is actually something out there called an "incentive" --
something that isn't just an aspect of the normal control process.
Keeping words like "incentive" and "reinforcer" around to describe
what we know are aspects of control is a mistake because it is
misleading. Should we also keep refering to "controlling stimuli"
(like red stop lights) just because psycholgists have always referred
to them with this term -- even though we know that these stimuli
don't control (or even cause) behavior?

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bruce Abbott (971202.1430 EST)]

Rick Marken (971202.1000) --

Bruce Abbott (971201.1130 EST)

I argued that group results can tell us about variables that act
on individuals.

But this argument is wrong.

So you say. I have shown both logically and by reference to real research
examples that it is correct. If that didn't convince you, nothing will.

We also pointed out that individual
studies are never done as follow-ups to the group studies. So
even if your argument were correct it would be irrelevant.

Never is a strong word. I know of such cases. Many of them.

So, when "conventional" psychologists explore, say, how the ability
to recall an event is influenced by the level of emotion experienced
with respect to that event, their research is useless because it
did not involve a Test for a controlled variable.

Yes. It is useless as a study of control, so it is useless to
understanding purposeful behavior.

Slippery. First you assert that all "conventional" research is "useless"
(period), and when I give examples of useful conventional research you add
the qualifier "to understanding purposeful behavior." That is a very
different assertion, although I don't necessarily agree with it either.
Studies of perceptual systems, memory systems, and so on certainly may help
to understand the functioning of control systems that include these systems,
and thus have relevance "to understanding purposeful behavior."

any study identifying the "reinforcer" for a given behavior is
providing information about what the CV may be.

I can't believe you could claim this after your (modest) experience
with PCT research on weight control. When you said this a couple years
ago I could attribute it to lack of understanding of control. Now,
it can only be the result of willful reluctance to understand control.

I not only made this claim, I backed it up. Your assertion that a mere
_variable_ is a "reinforcer" is just plain illogical. How, for example,
could "nutrient level" be a "reinforcer" (something that increases the level
of responding)? It's just a variable, having whatever value it happens to
have. Why should an organism increase its behavioral output just because it
is controlling nutrient level? It shouldn't, and won't. Behavioral output
will increase only if the "reinforcer" is something the organism wants and
does not currently have (e.g., a _higher level_ of nutrients).

I don't know why you feel you have to minimize the effort that went into the
weight-control study. The "modest" experience you speak of amounted to over
300 _days_ just collecting the data, without break for weekends or holidays.
The average tracking study lasts what, 120 _seconds_ per participant?

Regards,

Bruce

[From Rick Marken (971202.1220)]

Bruce:

I argued that group results can tell us about variables that act
on individuals.

Me:

But this argument is wrong.

Bruce Abbott (971202.1430 EST) --

So you say. I have shown both logically and by reference to
real research examples that it is correct.

I have shown using modeling (the spreadsheet model) that the
argument is wrong. What possible real research example could
show that it is correct? Research where it was found that some
individual behaved like the group? If so, we only know that
from the individual results; the similarily of the individual
result to the group result is an irrelevant coincidence which we
would never have known about from the group results alone.

Me:

We also pointed out that individual studies are never done as
follow-ups to the group studies.

Ye:

Never is a strong word. I know of such cases. Many of them.

References, please. Many of them.

Slippery. First you assert that all "conventional" research is
"useless" (period), and when I give examples of useful conventional
research you add the qualifier "to understanding purposeful
behavior." That is a very different assertion, although I don't
necessarily agree with it either.

I said "useless" in the context of a discussion of how to do research
to study control and control theory. Perhaps I should have been
clearer and said that conventional is only useless for studying
control processes but that it is useful for getting tenure,
promoting one's career, providing group data to support vague
"theories" of the "causes" of individual behavior, to legitimatize
prejudice, etc.

Your assertion that a mere _variable_ is a "reinforcer" is just
plain illogical. How, for example, could "nutrient level" be a
"reinforcer" (something that increases the level of responding)?

Check out Bill's PCT model of reinforcement. Then you might be able
to answer your own question (but I doubt it).

I don't know why you feel you have to minimize the effort that
went into the weight-control study.

I don't minimize the effort that went into it. I am just impressed
by how _little_ came out of it -- in terms of your understanding
of control, ideas for subsequent research or papers describing
"lessons learned" regarding approaches to testing for controlled
variables.

Why not try to stop setting me straight about stuff I've already
rejected and just reply to Bill Powers' (971202.0610 MST) very
interesting request:

...list the ideas in traditional psychology that in your view
_are_ in conflict with PCT, that would need to be changed if PCT
is valid. Are all the errors only errors of omission, as you
have implied? Or are there any basic concepts that would have
to be judged wrong if PCT is judged right?

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bill Powers (971202.1608 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (97120>2<.1355 EST)--

This would follow only if all controlled variables were static and their
reference states were their natural equilbrium states.

Yes, in which case there would be an absence of all disturbance, my
qualifying precondition. The point is technically correct, and I made it
simply because it does follow from PCT. No living organism ever finds
itself in this condition (there are always disturbances to controlled
variables (e.g., metabolic drains), and in fact action taken to control one
variable often disturbs other controlled variables. For this reason living
organisms are always actively controlling.

But you have ignored the _real_ reason that output is required for many
controlled variables even when there are no disturbances. Some controlled
variables, of which I provided several examples, require action to produce
them even in the total absence of disturbances. Your answer is "technically
correct" only for those cases in which it is correct. For the rest it is
incorrect. That's a funny definition of "technically correct."

One reason I responded to this seemingly minor point is that it is really a
basic thesis in many theories of behavior. It is the reason for asserting
that in the final analysis, all behavior is instigated by the environment.
Skinner, for example, scornfully dismissed spontaneous behavior because, he
said, it would be "capricious." In this modern electronic age, of course,
we understand how a system can spontaneously generate organized behavior as
soon as operating power is turned on, no external stimulus required. But
Skinner, and many others, did not, apparently, know that such systems could
exist.

Can you provide the reference for this Skinner quote? Perhaps he did say
it, but I would be surprised to find that he did, unless he was taking
"spontaneous" to mean "uncaused."

What a bore, Now I have to look through his books to find it.
....
While looking in _Science and human behavior_ I came across this gem on p.
28. It's Skinner's basic model of behavior:

···

=========================================================================
Eventually a science of the nervous system based upon direct observation
rather than inference will describe the neural states and events which
immediately precede instances of behavior. We shall know the precise
neurological conditions which precede, say, the response "No, thank you."
These events in turn will be found to be preceded by other neurological
events, and these in turn by others. This series will lead us back to
events outside the nervous system and, eventually, outside the organism."

Another (p.35)
"We cannot acount for the behavior of any system while staying wholly
inside it; eventually, we must turn to forces operating on the organism
from without. Unless there is a weak spot in our causal chain so that the
second link is not lawfully determined by the first, or the third by the
second, then the first and third links must be lawfully related."

Remember the demonstration of the correlation between the disturbance and
the controlled variable and the controlled variable and the output,
compared with the correlation between the disturbance and the output? My
old professor at Northwestern, the one who stalked out in a rage when I
showed him this, evidently shared Skinner's faith. Well, back to the grind.

Oh, God, another one, also on P. 35:

The external variables of which behavior is a function provide for what may
be called a causal or functional analysis. We undertake to predict and
control the behavior of the individual organism. This is our "dependent
variable" -- the effect for which we are to find the cause. Our
"independent variables" -- the causes of behavior -- are the external
conditions of which behavior is a function. Relations between the two --
the "cause-effect relationships" in behavior -- are the laws of a science.
A synthesis of these laws expressed in quantitative terms yields a
comprehensive picture of the organism as a behaving system.

Come on, Bruce, you must have run across at least one of the many times
Skinner referred to spontaneous behavior as capricious. You still don't
believe it? OK, onward through the murk.

You might like to review p. 48, where Skinner triumphantly eliminates the
idea of a hierarchy of purposeful control systems. "The will" is forced
upward from the spinal cord to the cerebral cortex, where it "escapes
through the front of the head." I am getting very tempted to use Rick's
favorite A-word.

Also p. 87 ff, where he demolishes the idea of purpose. When you watch
Skinner applying his usual method of reasoning to an end such as this,
doesn't it make you wonder a bit about his capacity to reason? The man was
a verbal trickster, obsessed with proving that the environment was in
control of behavior.

The title of Ch. 8 (p. 129 ff) is "The Controlling Environment."

Well, an hour later, I give up. I just can't read this drivel. I know he
said it not once but many times; I ran across it only a couple of weeks
ago, looking up something else. I'll come across it again, I presume, but I
really can't do any more of this right now.

Best,

Bill P.

Behavior occurring for no cause would

violate basic determinism, which is assumed to hold at least in the macro
world of organisms (except perhaps by those such as Roger Penrose who argue
for some kind of macro amplification of quantum effects). Skinner assumed
that "sponaneous" behavior ("emitted" rather than "elicited") occurs all the
time, owing to unobserved factors within the organism in conjunction with
environmental conditions. Behavior that occurred without cause would
certainly qualify as "capricious."

Respectfully submitted,

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (971202.1710 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (971202.1430 EST)--

Bruce Abbott (971201.1130 EST)

I argued that group results can tell us about variables that act
on individuals.

[Rick Marken]

But this argument is wrong.

\

{Bruce again]

So you say. I have shown both logically and by reference to real research
examples that it is correct. If that didn't convince you, nothing will.

It's been a long day, Bruce, and I am in no condition to suffer foolish
statements gladly. You showed no such thing. You showed that IF all the
people in a group are affected similarly, the group measure will also show
the effect. But you've ignored the case in which all the people are
affected differently, yet the group still shows the effect. Since you can't
say in advance which will be the case, you simply can't draw the conclusion
you want to draw. I tried to show you what's wrong with your reasoning
here; it's an elementary logical error. And I should add, it's one you seem
to make frequently -- confusing a positive instance supporting an
explanation with a proof that the explanation is correct. Are you just
going to go on insisting that you're right about this and ignoring
everything I say about it?

We also pointed out that individual
studies are never done as follow-ups to the group studies. So
even if your argument were correct it would be irrelevant.

Never is a strong word. I know of such cases. Many of them.

Well bully for you. So you know of some cases where it was done. What about
the vast majority of cases in which it was NOT done? And when you say there
was a follow-up, are you saying that every individual in the original study
was tested to make sure there were no exceptions to the findings? Or did
the follow-up simply turn into another statistical study with the majority
ruling?

I think I had better shut up. I'm more angry with you than I thought possible.

Best (or something),

Bill P.

[From Bruce Abbott (971202.2040 EST)]

Rick Marken (971202.1220) --

Bruce:

I argued that group results can tell us about variables that act
on individuals.

Me:

But this argument is wrong.

Bruce Abbott (971202.1430 EST)

So you say. I have shown both logically and by reference to
real research examples that it is correct.

I have shown using modeling (the spreadsheet model) that the
argument is wrong.

So you say. In fact, your spreadsheet showed precisely what I said it would
show, whereupon, in the best NewSpeak tradition of Orwell's _1984_, you
announced that you had shown me to be wrong.

What possible real research example could
show that it is correct? Research where it was found that some
individual behaved like the group? If so, we only know that
from the individual results; the similarily of the individual
result to the group result is an irrelevant coincidence which we
would never have known about from the group results alone.

I described examples of empirical support earlier and am not going to
repeat. It was never commented on. When I'm challenged to provide
empirical support and do, that's what I usually get: the _ig_nores. Of
course, if I hadn't provided it, I'd never hear the end of it.

Me:

We also pointed out that individual studies are never done as
follow-ups to the group studies.

Ye:

Never is a strong word. I know of such cases. Many of them.

References, please. Many of them.

Certainly, to the first person who publicly promises to look them up and
report on their content. [This request for empirical support comes the guy
who couldn't even provide the cognitive dissonnance reference Richard
Kennaway wanted, this after providing a wonderful _mis_description of the
study on CSGnet.]

Slippery. First you assert that all "conventional" research is
"useless" (period), and when I give examples of useful conventional
research you add the qualifier "to understanding purposeful
behavior." That is a very different assertion, although I don't
necessarily agree with it either.

I said "useless" in the context of a discussion of how to do research
to study control and control theory. Perhaps I should have been
clearer and said that conventional is only useless for studying
control processes but that it is useful for getting tenure,
promoting one's career, providing group data to support vague
"theories" of the "causes" of individual behavior, to legitimatize
prejudice, etc.

No, we were talking about the value of psychological research in general.
You said it was "useless." The last sentence in the quoted paragraph above
is just inflammatory rhetoric.

Your assertion that a mere _variable_ is a "reinforcer" is just
plain illogical. How, for example, could "nutrient level" be a
"reinforcer" (something that increases the level of responding)?

Check out Bill's PCT model of reinforcement. Then you might be able
to answer your own question (but I doubt it).

_Bill_, mister "ain't no sucha thing," has a model of reinforcement? What
is it? Where can I read about it?

My own view, which judging from your belief that the CV is the reinforcer,
must differ substantively from Bill's, goes like this (in brief): What has
been called "reinforcement" in the psychological literature actually refers
to aspects of two distinct processes: the control process and the learning
process. I have already described how it appears in the control process:
output occurs when the CV is below its reference; this output produces
results that tend to reduce the error. Such results of output are termed
"reinforcers" by the EAB folks. The learning aspect appears when behavioral
acts are selected that produce the reinforcers and thus contribute to the
reduction of error in the relevant control system. Is Bill's view anything
like this?

I don't know why you feel you have to minimize the effort that
went into the weight-control study.

I don't minimize the effort that went into it. I am just impressed
by how _little_ came out of it -- in terms of your understanding
of control, ideas for subsequent research or papers describing
"lessons learned" regarding approaches to testing for controlled
variables.

I'm not done with it, and the more time I spend arguing with you the less
time I have left for it. Is this problem you see with my research anything
like your own extremely impressive lack of research output? These tracking
studies can be conducted at the rate of one per afternoon. You only need a
PC and a willing participant. You must have about a gazillion of them by
now, shouldn't you? Illuminating all sorts of murky areas formerly lit up
only by the deceiving smokey flicker of "conventional" psychological
research. Where is this impressive body of new empirical facts you have
produced by capitalizing on the powerful new insights that control theory
provides into the inner workings of the human mind and behavior? Where?

Regards,

Bruce

[From Bruce Abbott (971202.1045 EST)]

Bill Powers (971202.1710 MST) --

Bruce Abbott (971202.1430 EST)

Bruce Abbott (971201.1130 EST)

I argued that group results can tell us about variables that act
on individuals.

[Rick Marken]

But this argument is wrong.

{Bruce again]

So you say. I have shown both logically and by reference to real research
examples that it is correct. If that didn't convince you, nothing will.

It's been a long day, Bruce, and I am in no condition to suffer foolish
statements gladly. You showed no such thing. You showed that IF all the
people in a group are affected similarly, the group measure will also show
the effect. But you've ignored the case in which all the people are
affected differently, yet the group still shows the effect. Since you can't
say in advance which will be the case, you simply can't draw the conclusion
you want to draw.

If all the people are affected differently, then whatever average effect is
shown by the group-based method will be weak and certainly not the sort of
thing that shows sufficient regularity (under the conditions studied) to be
worth additional effort. It is quite easy to see which case you have if you
are using the right kind of group-based design (repeated measures).

I tried to show you what's wrong with your reasoning
here; it's an elementary logical error. And I should add, it's one you seem
to make frequently -- confusing a positive instance supporting an
explanation with a proof that the explanation is correct. Are you just
going to go on insisting that you're right about this and ignoring
everything I say about it?

If I am arguing that there are cases in which such an approach will work,
and then demonstrate such a case, that is no "elementary logical error" of
reasoning. And Bill, I have not "ignored everything you say about it." I
think carefully about what you have said before responding. What I have
tried to do is show you that the arguments you have offered against my
position simply are mistaken. (All too frequently you do not even correctly
understand what my position has been, and have launched arguments against
positions I am not even defending!)

We also pointed out that individual
studies are never done as follow-ups to the group studies. So
even if your argument were correct it would be irrelevant.

Never is a strong word. I know of such cases. Many of them.

Well bully for you. So you know of some cases where it was done.

Well, that disproves the "never" statement, doesn't it?

What about
the vast majority of cases in which it was NOT done? And when you say there
was a follow-up, are you saying that every individual in the original study
was tested to make sure there were no exceptions to the findings? Or did
the follow-up simply turn into another statistical study with the majority
ruling?

I'm glad I didn't trouble myself to look up and type in all those references
Rick wanted to see. I can see by your response that it would have been a
total waste of time.

The follow-up studies were done with a different set of individuals, tested
individually. Initial findings were obtained in group-based studies coming
out of other labs, but individual subject behaviors mirrored the group-based
results.

I think I had better shut up. I'm more angry with you than I thought possible.

I am truly sorry. My intention was not to make you angry, but to encourage
you to reconsider some long-held opinions in the light of counterarguments.
Perhaps that was too much to ask.

I'll shut up now.

Peace,

Bruce

[Martin Taylor 971203 02:05]

Bruce Gregory (971202.1235 EST) to Bruce Abbott

Here is the problem in a nutshell. In your world variables act
on individuals. In the PCT world indivuals act on variables. You
see no difference. We do.

In my world (a PCT World, I think, though our loose canon often tries
to get me to 'fess up before the Inquisition that my world isn't a
"true, authorized" PCT world) individuals act on variables _and_
variables act on individuals. A world in which individuals did not
act on variables would be one without life, and a world in which
variables did not act on individuals would be one in which all life
proceeded without disturbances. Neither is very interesting, nor
realistic.

Martin

[Martin Taylor 971203 01:55]

Bill Powers (971202.1008 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (971201.1130 EST)--

Here is my version of what is _Basic_ PCT:

Everything looks fine here except for

10. In the absence of all disturbance to all controlled perceptual
   variables, a person would do nothing -- not even daydream.

This would follow only if all controlled variables were static and their
reference states were their natural equilbrium states. Consider, however, a
controlled variable that consists of the sound-effort patterns of singing a
song. The song will not appear in perception unless the person actively
generates the required outputs. ...

I made just this mistake early in my days on CSGnet, and Bill set me
straight using the kind of examples he used here.

And there's another reason why this point 10 is wrong. If an organism
"did nothing," it would run down entropically. Energy supplies must be
replenished, and reference values for the associated perceptions keep
changing just because the related internal stated _must_ change. It's
not only an observation, its a thermodynamic requirement.

Martin

[From Bruce Gregory (971203.0715 EST)]

Martin Taylor 971203 02:05

Bruce Gregory (971202.1235 EST) to Bruce Abbott

Here is the problem in a nutshell. In your world variables act
on individuals. In the PCT world indivuals act on variables. You
see no difference. We do.

In my world (a PCT World, I think, though our loose canon often tries
to get me to 'fess up before the Inquisition that my world isn't a
"true, authorized" PCT world) individuals act on variables _and_
variables act on individuals. A world in which individuals did not
act on variables would be one without life, and a world in which
variables did not act on individuals would be one in which all life
proceeded without disturbances. Neither is very interesting, nor
realistic.

Indeed. My point, perhaps expressed too elliptically, is that PCT looks
at the system from the viewpoint of the organism acting as a
control system with regard to its environment. Bruce Abbott seems to
prefer the viewpoint of the environment acting on the organism.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (971203.0810 MST)]

Martin Taylor 971203 02:05 --

In my world (a PCT World, I think, though our loose canon often tries
to get me to 'fess up before the Inquisition that my world isn't a
"true, authorized" PCT world) individuals act on variables _and_
variables act on individuals.

The difference that I see is in whether the effect on the variables is
intended or simply the result of a convergence of independent forces.
Individuals vary their actions so that the variables they affect come to
intended states. The environment affects variables in an individual only
according to the intervening physical laws; there is nothing in the
physical environment (excluding other control systems) that has any
intentions concerning the affected variables, or that can _vary_ the
actions in case the effects become different from what they were before.

Best,

Bill P.

[Martin Taylor 971203 10:25]

Bruce Gregory (971203.0715 EST)

My point, perhaps expressed too elliptically, is that PCT looks
at the system from the viewpoint of the organism acting as a
control system with regard to its environment. Bruce Abbott seems to
prefer the viewpoint of the environment acting on the organism.

I can't speak to what Bruce "prefers." For myself, I try to take whichever
viewpoint is appropriate for the question of the moment.

For me, the interesting "question of the moment" is how the ever tighter
communicative coupling across individuals and institutions is likely to
affect our interactions -- as control systems. If Stuart Kauffman's work
can be generalized, as I think it can, this environmental influence on
individual control systems will have _profound_ effects.

People have, for example, suggested that general accessibility to the Web
and to rapid (e-mail) person-to-person communication will lead to a general
increase in tolerance, as everyone begins to "see" other people's point
of view. My view is to the contrary. The stability of interacting sets
of control systems is potentially affected by disturbances to any one
of the control systems; such mutually supporting control system sets are
more likely to be sustained when the coupling within the sets is tight
and the coupling across sets is loose.

Increasing the coupling _possibilities_ by easing communication
is likely to destabilize the sets, and therefore (counterintuitively)
_reduce_ the possibilities each individual has for control. That leads
to reorganization, and the rebuilding of mutually supporting sets. Those
sets have in them individuals organized so that they listen primarily to
other individuals within the prescribed set, discounting communication
from outside the set, thus restoring the tight-loose balance that had
in previous times been imposed by geography (an external environmental
cause). The new "membrane" is in revised reference perceptions that are
set within the individuals. They don't know how or why reorganization
has done what it has done--they perceive themselves only as behaving
"correctly" or "effectively." And they are, as judged by the quality of
their control.

That's one example in which I "prefer" the viewpoint of the environment
acting on the organism. I prefer it because I'm interested in how the
individual organisms act on the environment.

Martin

[From Bruce Gregory 9971203.1155 EST)]

Martin Taylor 971203 10:25

That's one example in which I "prefer" the viewpoint of the environment
acting on the organism. I prefer it because I'm interested in how the
individual organisms act on the environment.

I have come to much the same conclusion myself, but I arrived at
it from the point of view of the organism acting to control its
perceptions. It may be just a question of which approach one is
most comfortable with.

Bruce

[From Hank Folson (971203)]

Bruce Abbott (971201.1130 EST)

Here is my version of what is _Basic_ PCT:
1. Behavior is the control of perception.
2. Control exists at many levels, and is organized hierarchically, with
   higher-level systems setting the references of lower-level systems.
5. The performance of a control system cannot be analyzed by tracing
   cause and effect sequentially around the loop; each component must
    be analyzed as acting simultaneously.
6. "Behavioral laws" deduced by looking only at external input-output
   relations reveal the properties of the environment (feedback

function) rather than those of the internal system (forward function).

7. One can identify the external correlate of the controlled perception
   by applying disturbances and looking for a lack of effect where one
    would be expected if control were absent (the "Test").
10 . In the absence of all disturbance to all controlled perceptual
    variables, a person would do nothing -- not even daydream.
11. In a control system, output varies as necessary to counter the> effects

of disturbances to the system's controlled perception.(

   Variable means to constant ends.)

I get the impression, and Rick has posted, that you approach or reconcile the
differences between PCT and mainstream psychology as being of description,
rather than basic philosophy, thus your repeated attempts to restate PCT and
mainstream psychology in mutually acceptable ways.

I am woefully ignorant of mainstream psychology, and spent only 15 minutes in
coming up with an equivalent mainstream list. The only thing I stand behind on
my list is the common characteristic that the points are opposite of PCT or
incompatible with PCT. Wouldn't this be generally true of a properly researched
list? Aren't PCT and mainstream psychology immiscible?

Hypothetical undocumented version of what might be mainstream psychology:

1. Perceptions control behavior.

2. The physical structure of the organism has no affect on the psychology of
the organism.

5. The performance of an organism can be analyzed by tracing cause and effect
sequentially.

6. "Behavioral laws" deduced by looking at external input-output
    relations reveal how the properties of the environment affect the
behavior of the organism.

7. Anything that does not vary significantly is not a variable, and thus can
be ignored.

10. In the absence of all environmental stimulus, a person does nothing --
not even daydream.

11. The challenge for mainstream psychology is to determine why individuals
vary so much in their response to the stimuli, incentives, and reinforcements
by the environment.

Sincerely, Hank Folson