[Martin Taylor 990312 10:18]
From John A 11 mar 99
You know it strikes me that in PCT and BCT we both are trying to do the
namely to control something.. BCT tries to control behavior. PCT tries to,
show how to control perceptions. I have difficulty learning PCT; and
nor any one in CSG seems interested in learning about BCT. I wish we could
some way of getting together.
Taking this question seriously requires a bit of analysis, I'm afraid.
Of course, I come from a PCT perspective. This can't be helped. It's
what I know. BCT I know only from your messages. By the way, is it
possible for you to refrain from attaching a copy of each message to
the message you mail?
Firstly, let's ask what it means to "control" something. To "control"
something is not the same as to "influence" it, to "affect" it, or to
(a) To control something, one has to be able to influence or to affect it
(I take those words to mean about the same). That means that one's
actions must be able to change the state of whatever "it" might be.
(b) To control something, one must have some notion of what the something
"ought" to be. One must "intend" it to take on some value. Most talk in
PCT zeros in on a single numerical value of a single variable (as with
the temperature registered by a thermostat), one could also "intend" a
more complicated state of something.
(c) If one "intends" something to take on a particular state, and if one
can "influence" its state, one is almost in a position to "control" it.
But one thing more is needed. One has to be able to determine what the
state is, at the moment, so that one's influence on it moves it toward
and not away from the desired state--which might even be exactly where
one intends it to be, and then one wouldn't want to influence it at all.
In other words, one must "perceive" the something, and must be able to
compare the resulting perception with the intended state.
Put these requirements into the language ordinarily used on CSGnet, and
(a) we have a "reference value," (b) we have the ability to "act"
effectively (some call this the ability to "behave"), and (c) we can
"perceive" the results of the action or behaviour and compare the
"perception" with the reference value. All of these are necessary,
and also they are sufficient for control of something.
What is the "something" being controlled? We want it to be whatever in
the environment is important--the thing whose state is perceived and
compared with the intention. But we cannot _know_ what its state
really is, and we therefore cannot compare its true state with our
intention for its state. The best we can do is to compare our perception
of its state with our intention for its real state.
All we can _ever_ do, then, is to control our _perceptions_ of things,
however much we may want to control the "things" themselves.
If you accept the premises and conclusion above, we can now enquire about
"control of behaviour".
The presumption implicit in "control of behaviour" is that certain actions
are intended. The consequences of those actions are of no interest, and
may be unobserved, for if the actor had intentions for the consequences of
the actions and observed those consequences, it would be "control of
perception" and not "control of behaviour."
So, BCT implies that people perceive the actions they take, but do not
perceive what happens as a consequence of those actions, or at least
do not care about the consequences. I'll mitigate that comment a little,
by acknowledging that if the environment is totally stable and
predictable, the consequences of action may also be predictable and
may be as intended without being checked through overt perception. This
kind of situation does occur, and PCT handles it (by control in
imagination-- one imagines what one wants to occur and what actions will
bring it about, and then executes those actions; but ordinarily one
observes the consequences of planned actions and corrects them, which
again is "control of perception.")
If BCT has as its fundamental premise that people are unaware of, or are
unconcerned about, the consequences of their actions, so long as the
actions themselves are accurately performed, then it seems an unlikely
candidate to be a viable theory of how people behave. People do seem to
care more about, say, whether a car arrives at its destination safely
than about whether a precise series of pulls and pushes at the steering
wheel, brake pedal, and accelerator are executed. In social relations,
people care more about whether a partner smiles or seems to understand
than about whether they have executed the "proper" smile-causing protocol
or instructional rigmarole.
There do seem to be people who care more about executing the protocol or
about presenting the "right" instructions than about whether the protocol
or the instructions have the desired effect. We may be tempted to call
such people "insane", and perhaps BCT may apply in part to them--but
only in respect of these incomplete feedback loops, the loops in which
the actions are _supposed_ to cause particular social effects, but in
which the actions are not modified when the desired effects don't happen.
In this respect, it is possible that there might be an accommodation
between BCT and PCT. PCT describes, even for "insane" people, how they
stand and sit, eat, work, and play. But there may be times for some
people--even most people--when they act without regard to the consequences
or without changing the actions when the consequences don't match the
intentions. For those times and people, BCT (PCT applied to the
perception _of_ behaviour) may perhaps be applicable.
If BCT (as I understand what you have said about it) applies at all, it
can apply under two conditions. (1) The consequences of an action are
totally predictable by the actor, and (2) the actions are attempts to
influence very high-level perceptions, for which there are reference
"intentions" but for which effective influencing actions have not yet
been found. In PCT terms, condition (2) occurs during "reorganization".
"Reorganization" is a PCT technical term roughly synonymous with "learning
how". There are many possible facets to reorganization, one of which is
the re-linking of different possible lower-level "intentions" in support
of a higher-level control. In other language, a high-level goal is
served by lower-level goals, but thus far, the chosen lower-level goals
have not succeeded in achieving the higher-level goal, so new lower-level
goals may be substituted for some of the ones that did not result in
When the actions--the "behaviour"--of the lower level control systems
(in PCT) do not influence the higher-level perception, the situation is
either "command outflow," if the actions are unperceived, or "control of
behaviour" if the actions are perceived and their pereption controlled.
BCT may therefore apply as a mechanism in support of reorganization.
If BCT does apply in reorganization, this may be why you find it useful
in pathological situations. By its very definition, pathology implies
that the organism is not performing at its best--perceptual control is
failing at some level between biochemical and social. The feedback loop
for some perceptual control system is not closed, and the system has to
be reorganized so that one of two things happen. Either (1) the feedback
loop must be closed by the discovery of actions that do influence the
perception for which there is an "intended" state, or (2) the intention
for the state must vanish--the perception must not only be uncontrolled,
but must intentionally become uncontrolled. Option (2) means that any
yet higher-level goal that was the source of the "intention" must be
achieved in some different way.
Both options (1) and (2) involve the discovery of new actions to serve
a purpose. In option (1) the frustrated intention is the one that was
obviously not satisfied. In (2) the trail leads upward, to discover why
that intention was there, and to serve the higher-level purpose in a
way that the person can accomplish.
In PCT, failure to accomplish successful control is often caused by
conflict between attempts to control two perceptions that need common
lower-level support. Reorganization may be able to take away the conflict,
so that one of the conflicted perceptions starts to use other actions to
influence the "thing" that it is perceiving (whether that "thing" be
as high as self-image, or as low as the size of a window-opening).
But not all control failure is due to conflict, especially at higher
levels. It may take a lifetime (or more) of reorganization to find
actions that effectively influence some of the important perceptions,
or to eliminate their importance, as Zen training tries to do.
I hope this may help to illustrate the relationship between BCT and PCT,
and why BCT has had a rather frosty reception on CSGnet. It isn't
because BCT is seen as a threat, but because (unless I totally
misunderstand it, and it is really PCT with another label) it cannot
describe actual behaviour under most circumstances. I suspect you find
BCT to be useful precisely because it does not describe the behaviour
of people acting successfully. I think you would find PCT more useful,
since it can describe people behaving both normally and abnormally, and
can give you both reasons for abnormal behaviour and a target for
improving people's mental health _as seen by themselves_.