Behavior and control

From Tom Bourbon [940714.1740]

Replies to Paul George and Bill Leach.

[Paul George 940713 17:30]

From Tom Bourbon [940713.1512]

Behavior is the means by which perception is controlled; behavior is not a
result of something, other than behavior, by means of which perception is
controlled.

Of course, we then go on to say that many of the outward appearances of
specific _actions_ we see a person make at a particular time are probably
unintended side effects of the person's control of perception.

Could you clarify the distinction between Behavior and Action? I think it may
be the basis of much confusion.

I usually look at behavior as being a pattern or set of actions, usually within
the context of some environmental pattern of events or inputs. Tracking is
behavior, a given arm motion is action.

At least on first reading, that doesn't look terribly far from what I
believe is the PCT-modeling interpretation. I said not terribly far --
there are some differences, the magnitudes of which we can explore. Most
people, including most behavioral scientists, use the word "behavior" to
refer to their own observations of what another creature is doing -- he is
walking, she is talking, they are assembling, the rats ran along that path
to a new source of food, and so on. In that usage, behavior is interpreted
in terms of the observer's perceptual units and the labels are really names
for _results_ the observer notices when the other creature acts. In that
usage, actions and behavior are often equated or used interchangeably.

In PCT modeling, we have found it useful, often necessary, to think of
the behavior of a control system as what it is doing _from its own
perspective_. If, after performing the Test for Controlled Variables, we
concluded that a system is controlling its perceptions of the position of an
automobile on the highway, we speak of that as its behavior -- that is "what
it is doing." It does what it is doing (which is controlling a particular
perception in a desired way) by acting on the environment; the actions by
which it achieves control of perception are not "what it is doing." The
system's actions must be "out of control," in that the must vary any way
necessary (for example, due to environmental disturbances) in order for the
system to do what it is really doing -- controlling a particular perception
or set of perceptions.

In the PCT interpretation, many, if not all, of the things an observer sees
a system "doing" may well be outward appearances that are irrelevant to the
observed control system -- in most cases, what an observer sees does not
even exist for the observed control system -- it does not know that it is
seen as doing what the observer sees.

This difference in "points of view" concerning what the observed system is
doing is behind many misunderstandings between people -- "Why do you keep
doing that? Don't you know it drives me crazy?" "Stop doing what?" "Damn it,
you know what I mean! You keep making that stupid noise through your nose
every time you type at the word processor." "What noise?" And so on. And
in the behavioral and cognitive sciences, we have scientists who observe
people "doing things" and then conclude that they (the scientists) know what
those people are doing. Then they ask the people what they are doing. The
observed persons reply from their own perspectives; they describe what they
are controlling, whereupon the scientists (and a few famous
"neurophilosophers" I could name) shout in unison,"Aha! Do you see? We
_told you_ that people are unconscious of what they are doing. They don't
really know what they are doing." In contrast to nearly all other
behavioral scientists (and those very famous neurophilosophers) a PCT
modeler is more likely to take people at their word when they say, "I was
making the contrast on the picture just right," or "I was going to the
store to buy flour to make cookies for Aunt Sally." The difference in our
interpretation comes from our knowing that the actions of the person are not
"what the person is doing;" the person is "doing" his or her own controlled
perceptions.

You also seem to be saying that behavior directly causes other behavior. This
makes sense in the context of muscles (unobservable) moving an arm (observable)
or a arm motion propelling a ball. Is that all you meant?

I don't think I was saying exactly that, but it is true that the actions of
a hierarchical control system are "nested" in something like the manner
you describe. (As an aside, are you perhaps alluding to the old "behavior
cannot cause behavior" song, from radical behaviorism?)

<[Bill Leach 940713.21:10 EST(EDT)]

From Tom Bourbon [940713.1512]

Bill L. says:

Let me try to see if I can express this in a cogent fashion...

In common terms, "behaviour" is a lable for actions of people. In its'
common useage, the term is pretty vague but that is how most people see
the meaning. Behaviour is what we observe another person do, that is
their observed actions are behaviour.

Bill, in my reply to Paul I was actually replying to your questions as
well. Did I come close to addressing some of the questions you asked in
your post? I agree that common usage is pretty vague on "behavior" and
"actions" and even more vague or silent on "unintended side effects of
actions." In PCT modeling, is is mandatory that we maintain some kind of
clear distinction among the moment-by-moment products of the output function,
the many environmental consequences of those outputs, and the perceptual
signal(s) the system is controlling. In the modeling, the names of those
variables are unimportant -- they can be assigned any symbolic label that
is acceptable to the programming language one is using -- it is their
_values_ that matter, when the PCT model is run in simulations. Of course,
once we leave the confines of the little worlds we create when we are
modeling, we are back in the world of people and words; that's when the fun
begins. This is why it is so crucial that anyone who wants to understand
PCT look beyond the words they see on this net, or in our sometimes hard-to-
locate publications. A deep understanding of PCT can only come from
grasping the significance, if not the computations, of the quantitative
modeling. The PCT model is not about the words; the words are always
inadequate for expressing the quantitative model, and the necessarily
linear structure of language can never convey the simultanaeity and
continuity of the model in action.

. . .

A typical "formal" definition of the term "behaviour" is: The term
"behaviour" may be understood to embrace both the expressed and potential
capacity for activity in the physical, mental and social spheres of life.
     <That looks pretty useless to me but that is what
          many will see as the meaning of the term.>

The phrase "Behaviour is the control of perception." is a definition of
the term "behaviour". I don't believe that I maintained an incorrect
perception of the term as used in PCT but also recognize that most people
will not see that "behaviour" is a output and nothing more (I say output
because as I understand PCT, my "conclusions" when thinking are behaviour
even if they are not observable to any outsider).

Do my comments above come close to addressing these ideas?

It is also far more complete than what I said (this I see in
retrospection). When I say something like "The control of perception
results in what we call behaviour." it is possible that the person
hearing that might think that what is observed (so called behaviour) is
what is controlled (though I still think that such an interpretation is
incorrect).

Agreed. You are speaking of the (easily understood by PCTers) problem an
observer has if the observer is not aware of the phenomenon of control. To
that obsrver, it seems extraordinarily easy to identify what the observed
system "is doing" and never even suspect that the conclusion is wrong. (An
aside: I believe this point is relevant to the current discussion on csg-l
about "facts," but I won't have time to join in that discussion before I
vanish for the wedding.)

I will have to think about this a bit more. I still feel like taking the
step to saying something like "The control of perception results in what
we call behaviour." and then going on to explain B:CP is not necessarily
such a bad idea.

I think you can see now why I said, in the earlier post, that some of us
would chose to disagree with you -- but good naturedly :slight_smile: -- if you were
to say that.

. . .

Later,

Tom

{From Rick Marken (940715.0730)]

Tom Bourbon (940714.1740) --

Wow! What a nice post, Tom. You've managed to say, very clearly and
concisely, what I've been struggling to say all week. Here are some of my
favorites:

Most people, including most behavioral scientists, use the word "behavior" to
refer to their own observations of what another creature is doing -- he is
walking, she is talking, they are assembling, the rats ran along that path
to a new source of food, and so on. In that usage, behavior is interpreted
in terms of the observer's perceptual units and the labels are really names
for _results_ the observer notices when the other creature acts. In that
usage, actions and behavior are often equated or used interchangeably.

In PCT modeling, we have found it useful, often necessary, to think of
the behavior of a control system as what it is doing _from its own
perspective_...It does what it is doing (which is controlling a particular
perception in a desired way) by acting on the environment; the actions by
which it achieves control of perception are not "what it is doing." The
system's actions must be "out of control," in that the must vary any way
necessary (for example, due to environmental disturbances) in order for the
system to do what it is really doing -- controlling a particular perception
or set of perceptions.

In the PCT interpretation, many, if not all, of the things an observer sees
a system "doing" may well be outward appearances that are irrelevant to the
observed control system -- in most cases, what an observer sees does not
even exist for the observed control system -- it does not know that it is
seen as doing what the observer sees.

This difference in "points of view" concerning what the observed system is
doing is behind many misunderstandings between people.

And the grand finale:

The difference in our interpretation comes from our knowing that the actions
of the person are not "what the person is doing;" the person is "doing" his
or her own controlled perceptions.

Now THAT'S PCT!!!

You've done well, Tom. Now you can go off and enjoy your daughter's wedding;
and don't worry about how much it costs; the grants will be pouring in now
that you've explained with crytal clarity what PCT is about.

Mazel Tov

Rick

[Paul George 940715 09:30]

From Tom Bourbon [940714.1740]

Me:

You also seem to be saying that behavior directly causes other behavior. This
makes sense in the context of muscles (unobservable) moving an arm
(observable) or a arm motion propelling a ball. Is that all you meant?

I don't think I was saying exactly that, but it is true that the actions of
a hierarchical control system are "nested" in something like the manner
you describe. (As an aside, are you perhaps alluding to the old "behavior
cannot cause behavior" song, from radical behaviorism?)

I have no problem with behavior causing behavior (and don't remember the song).
I just wondered if you intended somthing more than the simple interpretation.
However, given your definition of behavior above (what the observer perceives)
I'm no longer sure I understood what you meant.

Have fun at the wedding (Free at last! Free at last.... :slight_smile:
Paul

From Tom Bourbon [940719.1805]

<[Bill Leach 940715.21:39 EST(EDT)]

From Tom Bourbon [940714.1740]

Bill L:

Defining behaviour as the control of perception gives the term a
restricted, definate meaning. The term becomes something that is
consistent, reliable and testable. Unfortunately, we will still have to
be able to deal with the "other" meanings for the term (ie: "it means
what I mean it to mean" type useage).

I see it the other way around: it is unfortyunate for all the rest of the
behavioral scientists in the world that _they_ must learn to deal with _our_
usage. (Do you think an attitude like that has anything to do with the slow
progress of PCT in the world ;-))

I may well have to give a bit more thought to what is going on with this
term in discussions even here on the CSG-L. When thinking in terms of
negative feedback control system operation, I don't think that I have any
trouble with the term behaviour. Behaviour is whatever the control
system does to effect control of the perception.

In my earlier post I was urging the idea that behavior is the control
of perception (where have I heard that before?), and that "uncontrolled"
(in the sense of being free to vary) actions are the stuff of which behavior
the control of perception is made. When I am engaged in the behavior of
"driving my car," I am really engaged in the behavior of perceiving what I
intend to perceive viv-a-vis car and road and geographic location and so
on.

. . .

I think that we may need some way to know when we are talking about
behaviour from the perspective of the controlling system vs. the
observations of behaviour.

It is probably fairly safe to assume that when a PCT modeler speaks of
behavior, the intended perspective is that of the modeled organism, unless
otherwise stated. I believe this relationship is the reverse of the one
commonly found in behavioral science, where the typical point of view is
from outside the observed organism.

. . .

When I see someone "behave" a specific manner, at least now, for me, I
recognize that such observed behaviour may have my attention but I must
preceed very carefully as far as trying to draw any conclusions from
analysis of what I have seen. Conscious recognition that any given
"pattern" of observed behaviour could result from many different "goals"
is, no doubt, an important first step.

What is more, the same "goal" (intended perceptions) could result in many
other "patterns" of behavior, some of which might be unrecognizable as
serving the same intended perceptions. I think you are saying something
very much like this in:

That is, more succently, the
Perception(s) being controlled are what is important and it is not likely
that mear observation of behaviour (even if you do recognize the
reactions to some disturbances) will "tell" you what perception(s) is/are
being controlled.

I think you can see now why I said, in the earlier post, that some of us
would chose to disagree with you -- but good naturedly :slight_smile: -- if you
were to say that.

I am reminded of the remarks made by an educator a few years ago,
something to the effect of: "You want them to be 'over here', but they
are 'over there'. If you are going to succeed in teaching them anything
worthwhile, you need to first 'get to where they are' and then lead them
to where you want them to be."

Ah, but that is one of our big problems: "they" are already where they want
to be!

This is sort of how I feel about my comment that "Behaviour results from
the control of perception." It may be "a bit too far out" here on CSG-L
but it probably is a decent starting point with someone that has neither
heard of PCT nor understands the concept of closed loop control.

Mary Powers beat me to it, on this one. I don't think there can be any
"baby steps" on this point, Bill. This is point at which the "leap of
faith" must be made -- all or none. Any hanging back and, instead of making
it across to the other side, the reluctant leaper is almost certainly doomed
to tumble into a crevasse.

Can't remember who it was that said "Free at last... Free at last..." but
if this is a formal wedding and you are no more independently wealthy
than I think you are, "Free at last" deserves some pretty significant
qualifications! Hope all goes well this weekend though it likely will
(weddings usually do) and since you already know that YOU can't control
eveything it should not be too stressful.

Thanks for the encouraging -- and insightful -- remarks. It was a wonderful
time, and a zen-like PCT experience in which everything "just happened."

Later,

Tom

<[Bill Leach 940720.01:07 EST(EDT)]

From Tom Bourbon [940719.1805]

I see it the other way around: it is unfortyunate for all the rest of
the behavioral scientists in the world that _they_ must learn to deal
with _our_ usage. (Do you think an attitude like that has anything to
do with the slow progress of PCT in the world ;-))

That sort of an arrogant attitude could be a part of the "problem" but I
doubt it. I think that it probably has a lot more to do with the idea
that just about every that "they" have done in their professional life
would "go out the window".

I am reminded of the remarks made by an educator a few years ago,
something to the effect of: "You want them to be 'over here', but they
are 'over there'. If you are going to succeed in teaching them anything
worthwhile, you need to first 'get to where they are' and then lead them
to where you want them to be."

Ah, but that is one of our big problems: "they" are already where they
want to be!

In a very real sense, that is true. However, in many cases, people
really do want to learn something new. To teach them, one must go to the
trouble to find out "where they are" (that is what do they know, what do
they understand about the subject) and then "lead them to where you want
them to be" (and that IS lead not force).

Mary Powers beat me to it, on this one. I don't think there can be any
"baby steps" on this point, Bill. This is point at which the "leap of
faith" must be made -- all or none. Any hanging back and, instead of
making it across to the other side, the reluctant leaper is almost
certainly doomed to tumble into a crevasse.

Yes, though I did not really say it well in my response to Mary. I have
to agree. While I am certainly subject to many errors and no doubt will
make many more, I at least had the advantage that I pretty well understood
the concept of negative feedback control. My greatest difficulty has
been to understand the scope of the power of such a system (far beyond
anything that I had previously encountered) and to "map" such a system to
living beings.

I have read a great deal from the "motivational technology" field and had
already been convinced that there was a great deal of "truth" in what
they had to say. For example, "the world is what you make it to be" is a
paraphrase of a pretty common statement. PCT not only gives such a
statement support but actually helps to explain why it is true and how.
If you want to perceive the world as being "wonderful" then it is "up to
you" to make it so. Not only that, but it is literally impossible for
someone else to do it for you.

I am also reminded of the statement something to the effect: "Why should
I let someone else make me angry?" Again, I see that PCT really does lay
the responsibility for feeling upon the individual that experiences them
and not upon what we so often designate as the "cause".

None of this is intended to deny the effects of disturbances upon control
(or in extreme cases, upon "feelings") but rather to recognize that it is
ALWAYS OUR OWN perceptions that we are dealing with including are
perceptions related to what we thing about what we perceive.

Can't remember who it was that said "Free at last... Free at last..."

I do remember now though. It was Paul.

Glad to hear that it went well and welcome back.

-bill