Beliefs, factual and symbolic

Of course. And there are good examples of that in Bill’s CROWD demo, Reynolds flocking model and my phonemic drift model. But that’s not really relevant to my point, which is that you can’t learn anything about the nature of a feedback function by just looking at the environmental components of that function (components that, as you note, can include other control systems, such as people). You have to include a description of the CV, which is a perception (a function of environmental variables). That’s what the “What is Size” demo illustrates.

Yes, of course. But you don’t always have to include the subject’s perceptions of both the actions and intentions of others when dealing with collective control. In models of conflict we don’t need to include the subjects’ perceptions of the others’ intentions or actions; in models of flocking and CROWD behavior we only need to include the subjects’ perceptions of the actions of others.

This is fine for an informal analysis of a behavior. But for research purposes, identifying controlled variables must involve presenting evidence that your description of the CV is correct. If you are not doing this in a lab, you have to present evidence that the variable you describe is being maintained in a reference state, protected from naturally occurring disturbances.

Yes, for an informal analysis of the situation it is just fine.

There’s not much more I can do given the evidence I have – one picture and some description of the event. As I said above, if my aim were to more accurately identify the variables being controlled in this situation I would have to get a lot more information. For example, I would seek out other instances where this particular general shook hands (or didn’t) with other people (other possible disturbances to the “handshake as agreement” variable) to see if he always shook hands when there was agreement and avoided shaking when there wasn’t. And even if I found evidence of fairly consistent resistance to disturbances to this variable, I would test different hypotheses about the variable being controlled, such as “handshake to show respect unless the other person is not Caucasian”.

I agree that methodology is a big problem for those who don’t want to do research. Fortunately, it is not a problem for those of us who want to do research on purpose and know how to do it.