Better Late than Never

From Greg Williams (920924)

Bill Powers (920923.1500)

If this post of yours had appeared on the net just a bit earlier, Pat and I
would certainly have acted differently last night! A slightly late attempt at
purposive influencing....

Clearly you can cause another -- even a chimpanzee -- to write any
name in the rubber-band situation by applying a suitable pattern of
disturbances.

See, Chuck?

A behaviorist would have a hard time explaining why
this chimpanzee does NOT know how to write his name.

No problemo. Skinner would have said that your "responses" had "come under the
control of certain environmental stimuli through a history of your being
reinforced" and that your "responses served as stimuli controlling the
chimpanzee's responses due to a history of reinforcement." You and I think
that the offered explanation is, to be charitable, incomplete, but Skinner
wouldn't have had a hard time either spewing it off or accepting it himself.

But a control theorist could do so easily.

Yeah, it only took a month for you to agree with me that purposive influence
is as I've been saying it is. Chuck is still thinking about it.

The agent writing the name is not the chimpanzee, but the human being
operating the other rubber band.

HOORAY!!!!!! Now we both are in agreement with PCT science.

Does this represent an "influence on the chimpanzee's behavior?" In
once sense, certainly.

I prefer that you say "influence on the chimpanzee's ACTION (or OUTPUTS)."
That properly (in PCT terms) distinguishes influencing another organism's
action/outputs from influencing another organism's behavior/outcomes. The
former can occur without physical force, threats of same, or reorganization by
the organism; the latter can't.

But it is an influence on _how the chimpanzee behaves_? No, it is not. The
chimpanzee has acquired no new way of behaving. All it knew how to do before,
and all it knows now, is how to keep the knot in the rubber bands over a
target, as a way of getting an M&M later. All right, 100 M&Ms; who am I to
argue with a chimpanzee's lawyer? When I talk about "changing" people's
behavior, I automatically think in terms of doing something so that a person
will then know how to do something new, or do something differently from then
on. I don't count manipulating people's actions by using disturbances as
changing their behavior because as soon as I'm not there to supply the
carefully-chosen and patterned disturbance, that behavior will simply stop.
It never had any reason to exist in the first place except to protect some
controlled variable from being changed. If the behavior were continued after
the disturbance ceased, it would CAUSE an error. There is absolutely no reason
for the "manipulee" to continue that behavior, and every reason not to do so,
when the disturbance is removed.

Agreed. Now suppose I purposively influence you by telling you a fact which
you didn't know before, then walk away. Believing the "new" fact to be true,
you realize that that belief allows you to control something you were
controlling before much more efficiently (in some way). Before you knew about
the EXISTENCE of the "new" fact, you weren't worried about the efficiency with
which you were controlling. Now you decide to "use" your newfound belief and
control more efficiently -- after all, why not? HAVE YOU REORGANIZED? If so, I
take it that such reorganizations are going on all the time in our control
systems. Is that what you think? Or can there be "true" (to you) changes in an
organism's behavior (that is, in its outcomes) following something short of
reorganization? Regardless, the EFFECTS of my disturbance on you didn't die
out when I walked away. You continue to "do something new, or do something
differently from then on," so the results meet your criterion of "true"
behavior changes. I want to hear whether you think it's ALWAYS reorganization
-> behavior changes, and NEVER something-other-than-reorganization -> behavior
changes.

This is what I mean by "coping." Sure, people adjust their actions
because of effects from other people and from the nonliving
environment. But that just prevents their hierarchies from being
disturbed at the level where the disturbance has its first effect on a
controlled perception. They can interact with others 10,000 times a
day, and they will have learned nothing new. They will still know only
how to control their perceptions in the same ways they knew yesterday.
When all the disturbances go away, the people will be exactly as they
were before. Nothing of any importance has changed.

Nothing of importance to YOU. But much is happening in the myriad instances of
purposive influencing WITHOUT reorganization (or perhaps something else
resulting in truly changed behavior) which IS of importance to many
sociologists, therapists, educators, family members, workers, politicians,
advertisers, etc., etc. Many of them would welcome ideas on how to influence
others' actions without generating conflict. Perhaps PCT might actually be
useful beyond the ivory tower?!?! You can ask them if you don't believe me.

This is why I dismiss all the "purposive influences" you bring up as
being trivial. All they illustrate is how control systems with fixed
organizations will act when their actions affect other people and
other people's actions affect them. Out of these fixed organizations
there can arise detailed behavior of immense complexity, in the same
way that all those "people" in the crowd program exhibit complex
patterns of interaction -- while behaving in a simple and unchanged
way.

You admit that there IS purposive influencing and that it doesn't contradict
PCT science. I have no problems with how you personally judge the importance
of the phenomenon -- just don't tell others that THEY should consider the
phenomenon "trivial," too. That would be anything BUT putting yourself in the
other organism's shoes. I myself think the details of South African politics
are uninteresting. But it would reach the heights of arrogance for me to
advise people who live in the Homelands that those details are "trivial." They
would likely dismiss me as the "trivial" thinker! And this has been a theme in
my argument all along: ideology can have seriously negative effects on the
dissemination of PCT science.

Let's talk about reorganization.

Let's. You can start be answering the questions I posed above.

That's the only area where anything interesting happens in human behavior.

You mean: the only area where YOU THINK anything interesting happens. I would
welcome further discussion on "short-term" purposive influence with others on
the net who ARE interested in this ubiquitous phenomenon.

Looking forward to a "new" argument,

Greg