Behavioral Fantasies

[From Rick Marken (950526.1520)]

Bill Powers (950526.1230 MDT) --

Rick, you brought out a point about modeling the fly's behavior that I
had overlooked. Of course Bruce's description is not useful for a PCT
analysis! It's a description of appearances from the point of view of a
human observer standing outside the fly. The fly itself doesn't perceive
any of the things that Bruce described, so there's no way it can be
controlling them.

Well, you think that Bruce's description is not useful. I think that Bruce's
description is not useful. But it seems that Bruce (950526.1410 EST) thinks
that Bruce's description IS useful. In fact, I haven't been able to detect
much change in Bruce's position on this matter since he got on the net. Could
we be dealing with a controlled variable;-)

Bruce seems to be controlling for the idea that descriptions of the
appearance of behavior from the point of view of a human observer (the
typical way behavior is described in the behavioral sciences) should be
accounted for by PCT. We keep explaining (and demonstrating) why it is
impossible to do this. It is because it is impossible to tell what variables
are being controlled by simply looking at behavior; descriptions of behavior
are, therefore, not particularly useful to PCT.

Perhaps Bruce doesn't buy this because he doesn't know what we mean when we
say that the behavior we see is a (possibly irrelevant) side-effect of
controlling one's own perceeptions. For example, Bruce (950526.1410 EST)

I think my description provided a clear enough picture of the basic strategy
the fly employs to land on the ceiling, without recourse to fantasy.

In his brief post on "describing fly behavior", Bill Powers (950526.1230 MDT)
explains why Bruce's description of fly behavior provides no picture at all
of the fly's "basic strategy". The fly's basic strategy is to control its own
perceptions. Bill's post explains why Bruce's description of how a fly lands
on the ceiling is more of a fantasy than the PCT version that I invented.

Another way to see the problem with descriptions of behavior is by doing my
Mind Reading demo; I think you have a PC version, don't you Bruce? When you
move one of the numbers around the screen, notice what is happening to the
other numbers (the irrelevant side effects of your controlling). Someone
watching your behavior could make up a very complex decription of what you
are doing in terms of movement of any or all of the numbers on the screen,
ie. in terms of irrelevant side effecs of your controlling. In fact,the only
correct description of your behavior is from YOUR perspective -- in terms of
the perception of the location of the number that you are controlling.


you really should take a look at some of this insect research. In this
field, at least, the "real, systematic, PCT data collection" seems to be
much more common than you seem to believe.

Why not help out and post some examples. That's what the net's for, no? I
have been on the lookout for PCT type research for years. In the last month,
there are suddenly two studies (the Science catching article and the
Srinivasan bee study) that are models of PCT research. This is QUITE unusual.
You claimed that Nachtigall "clearly recognizes that the structures mediating
insect flight are organized as perceptual control systems" but then presented
evidence (the description of how a fly lands on the ceiling) that he really
doesn't. So if there is some "real, systematic, PCT data collection" in the
insect research field, please point it out. But the "fly landing" stuff is
clearly not it.

I'd love to hear about research, like Srinivasan's, aimed at determining the
variables being controlled by organisms. I'm sure there are many others on
this net who would like to know about it too, so please feel free to post it.