Behavior Mod, Testing Theories

[From Rick Marken (951212.2245)]

Bruce Abbott (951212.1710 EST) --

"Behavior modification"...is aimed toward teaching what in PCT would
be termed "ways to achieve control over a perception," and how to
discriminate what methods will work (while producing less conflict
with others) under what circumstances.

What a crock! Behavior modification has about as much to do with
teaching people how to control their perceptions as PCT has to do with
explaining how behavior is selected by reinforcers. PCT is not a new
way of talking about behavior; it's a new perspective on behavior -- one
that behavior modifiers know absolutely nothing about (if they did know
somethong about it, they sure wouldn't be behavior modifiers).

Behavior modifiers have no idea that people are controlling perceptions
and they don't care. Behavior modifiers don't try to figure out what
perceptions people are controlling or want to control (they don't test
for controlled variables), and they don't care.

Behavior modifiers don't realize that the "behavior" they see is not the
behavior that people are actually doing (people are controlling their
own perceptions, remember). Behavior modifiers reinforce the behaviors
they, not the behavior modifiee, want to perceive. Behavior modifiers
say that they are selecting behaviors that are best for the behavior
modifiee. What a crock.

Behavior modification is a caricature of how people deal with each other
when they have no idea that all people are perceptual control systems.
The portrait of behavior modification presented in "A Clockwork
Orange" may have exaggerted the violence of the procedures but not the
simple-mindedness of the model of human nature on which they are based.

Bill Powers (951212.0600 MST) --

There is, in short, any number of theories that could be offered to
explain the changes in operant rates. With several theories of equal-
appearing plausibility, we then have to think of experimental
manipulations that should have different effects according to each
theory, and use them to eliminate the theories that predict incorrectly.

Bruce Abbott (951212.1450 EST) --

I agree. In fact, I've been working toward that end, although I think you
have yet to recognize it.

You bet I have yet to recognize it.

I have been trying for over a year to suggest experimental manipulations
that should have different effects according to reinforcement and
perceptual control theory. Your contribution to this process has been
to claim that none of these experimental manipulations can discriminate
between these theories; and you never suggest experimental manipulations
that _can_ discriminate between them.

It is really difficult for me to see how you have been working toward the
end of trying to "think of experimental manipulations that should have
different effects according to each theory". Does your agreement with
Bill mean that you are going to start making your work towards this end
more apparent? Can you think of an experimental manipulation for which
reinforcement and PCT make different predictions?

Best

Rick