[From Rick Marken (2015.11.21.1400)]
Martin Taylor (2015.11.20/16/36)--
RM: I'm posting my answer to your post under a different subject heading because, as usual, this discussion with you has given me new insight into the reason people are having difficulty understanding what Bill is trying to explain in the section of LCS I that I am persistently pointing to (pp. 171-176): that what we see as "behavior" is a process of control. The insight came about while I was watering the plants in our garden (following Voltaire's advice) and thinking about the following reply to my question about whether we are seeing the reference states of controlled variables when we see "behavior".
RM: So do you agree that "extension of the leg" is a controlled variable with a reference state "fully extended"? And that the fact that this is a controlled variable can be objectively (experimentally) determined. A simple "yes" or "no" will do. And if the answer is "yes" then why not include them in the definition of "behavior"?
RM: I would really like to hear what your answer is to this.
MT: The answer is NO.
MT: Now let's see why. Firstly because you ask two separate questions. The answer to the first is "An observer might so assume, but there's no way for the observer to know". Only if the observer knows what perception was being controlled can the observer even see the state of the environmental referent of the controlled perception, and only if control is perfect and the observer knew that control was perfect would the observer be able to see its reference state. Bill covered the first point in the paragraph to which you referred when he said: "once behaviour has been defined in terms of an appropriate variable". As soon as he needed that precursor condition, he was into theory, not observation.
RM: This is what jogged my insight. Apparently you take the phrase "appropriate variable" to refer to "perceptual variable". And if this were what Bill meant by "appropriate variable" then, indeed, he would have been "into theory" because the perceptual variable is a theoretical construct in PCT. But that would be conflating theory and observation and I think Bill was way too smart to make that kind of mistake. To see why this would be a mistake, let's start by taking a look at the whole sentence in which this phrase occurs:
WTP: The existence of reference states is not conjectural; once behavior has been defined in terms of an appropriate variable, such reference states always exist.
RM: So the existence of reference states is not conjectural; they exist, they are not theoretical. And we know from the beginning of the next paragraph that these reference states are "..the problem to which control theory is addressed" -- that is, they are the phenomenon that control theory explains. We also know that controlled perceptions are part of control theory -- the theory that explains the existence of reference states of controlled variables. A theory is a conjecture about how things work; controlled perceptions, being part of control theory, are a conjecture about why the reference states of controlled variables exist.
RM: So if what Bill meant by "appropriate variable" in the sentence above was "perceptual variable", then what he would have been saying is that the non-conjectural existence of reference states is established once they have been defined in terms of conjectures about the reason for their existence. In other words, he would be saying that the existence of the reference state -- the phenomenon to be explained by control theory -- can only be observed using the theory that explains the phenomenon. This is clearly circular. It's like saying that the existence of linear acceleration -- a phenomenon explained by Newton's laws of motion -- could only be observed using the laws of motion that explain this phenomenon (yet Galileo managed to observe it 50 years before Newton was born).
RM: While I think it's pretty clear that Bill was not talking about "perceptual variables" when he referred to "appropriate variables" -- Bill knew very well the difference between a theory and the phenomenon the theory explains -- Martin's confusion led me to the realization that Bill's way of describing the phenomenon of reference states in terms of the "appropriate variables" might encourage confusion between theory and phenomenon. It might also suggest a level of analysis of the phenomenon of behavior that is far deeper than what is implied by the informal term "behavior". This eventually led to my insight, which was how the fact that behavior is control fits into research aimed at testing the PCT model of behavior -- a fact I hadn't really considered carefully before.
RM: The insight is that research on behavior from a control theory perspective has to start with a far more informal description of the behavior under study than what is implied in Table 1, p. 172 of LCS I. That table was created to show that behavior could be analyzed into a controlled variable, the reference state of that variable and the means used to control that variable. But that analysis was done after it was observed that the behavior being analyzed was a process of control. (The analysis could also be confusing because the terms used in the analysis are very similar (even identical) to those used in the theory that explains the results of the analysis. For example, using the term "controlled variable" to refer to the observed variable that is under control is often the same term we use to refer to the perceptual variable that is part of the theory that explains the observed control).
RM: So what I propose is a simpler analysis of behavior than the one shown in Table 1, p. 172 (and in my "Behavior is control" spreadsheet) that can be used as the starting point for PCT-based research on purposeful behavior. The evidence that behavior is control is that the events we call "behaviors" are consistently produced results of an organisms actions -- results that we know to be produced under quite different circumstances each time. So when we see people produce consistent results we know they are controlling. So I propose having a table for the analysis of behavior with the following columns:
Behavior | Results | Possible Disturbances | Possible CVs | Possible Reference States | Possible Means of Control
RM: The "Behavior" column would have the name of a behavior, such as "catching a ball", "riding a bike", "watering a plant", etc. The results column would be a description of a consistently produced result that is referred to by the behavior name. For example, one consistently produced result of "catching a ball" is "a caught ball";one consistently produced result of "riding a bike" is "a ridden bike"; one consistently produced result of "watering a plant" is "a watered plant'. These are pretty general descriptions of the results that are consistently produced but I think they get the point across.
RM: The fact that these consistently produced results are controlled results is deduced from knowing that they are produced under different circumstances -- what we call "varying disturbances" -- each time. These disturbances are not always obvious but we know they're there. The next column let's you speculate about what those varying disturbances might be. So one disturbance to catching a ball is the trajectory of the ball. The next three columns let you speculate in more detail about the results that are being controlled and the means by which they are controlled. This involves speculating about what variable might be controlled, what the reference state of that variable might be and, finally, what means might be used to control that variable. This is where we are getting into the realm of theory since more precise ideas about a controlled result requires knowing that such a result is an aspect of the environment seen from the point of view of the organism. In theory, the aspect of the aspect of the environment that is under control is a perception. But it's really not necessary to know this in order to come up with a more precise idea of the controlled variable.An example of this comes from attempts to determine the variable controlled when catching a ball. One of the first attempts to get a better description of the "result" that was being consistently produced was made by a physicist named Chapman who calculated what a person would see when a fly ball was hit straight at them in different trajectories. Based on a simple trigonometric analysis Chapman saw that a person would end up right under the ball if they kept the tangent of the optical angle made by the height of he ball relative to the eye increasing .
RM: Anyway, these are just preliminary thoughts but I think they are important things to consider for people who want to do research on the controlling done by living systems. The first step in such research is to describe the behavior you want to study in terms of consistently produced results -- that is, as control. The next step is to see this controlling in terms of possible controlled variables and their reference states. This step is aimed at getting a more precise idea of what results are being controlled. You do this by coming up with hypotheses about the aspects of the system's environment that correspond to the results being controlled. The next step is to test these hypotheses using some version of the TCV.
RM: All of these steps can be carried out without knowing PCT, although knowing PCT does help you come up with the right hypotheses. This is because PCT directs you to the fact that it is aspects of the environment, as seen from the point of view of the behaving system, that are under control. In the PCT model, these aspects of the environment that are controlled are called perceptions -- controlled perceptions.
RM: All this should have been the first chapter of my book "Doing Research on Purpose". But I think I will incorporate it into something like a little manual that will be about how to actually do research on control (purposeful behavior). I just don't know if I can think of a title for it that could possibly be as good as "Doing Research on Purpose".
Richard S. Marken
Author of <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.amazon.com_Doing-2DResearch-2DPurpose-2DExperimental-2DPsychology_dp_0944337554_ref-3Dsr-5F1-5F1-3Fie-3DUTF8-26qid-3D1407342866-26sr-3D8-2D1-26keywords-3Ddoing-2Bresearch-2Bon-2Bpurpose&d=BQMFaQ&c=8hUWFZcy2Z-Za5rBPlktOQ&r=-dJBNItYEMOLt6aj_KjGi2LMO_Q8QB-ZzxIZIF8DGyQ&m=0vvZtKeJRsZAgqQh8fUeqU9e9fKzyKqZeknR4Ge5Qx4&s=WTxxthF_fHs988hxWU6OL21AUF4Fpe29iCBD95BeiFk&e=>Doing Research on Purpose.
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