[From Rick Marken (2010.05.16.1810)]
Martin Taylor (2010.05.15.17.23)
Rick Marken (2010.05.15.1200)–
What was it that made it look “fringy” to you and them, do you think?
I refer you to my last message (on which you are commenting). Read the page
as of the last edit before mine, and imagine yourself having never read
anything about PCT before that. Could you imagine that this is serious
science? I think not.
Well I think so. But comparing what you wrote to the existing text I have developed a hypothesis about what makes you (and others) think the existing text makes PCT look “fringy”. Indeed, you state it yourself after asking me to compare your addition to the existing text:
Which one is more likely to suggest to a naive reader that PCT has more
going for it than a set of postulates designed to show opposition to what
the reader might already believe?
The only part of the existing text which says anything that shows opposition to what
the reader might already believe is the following:
“In contrast with other theories of psychology and behavior, which assume that behavior is a function of perception that perceptual inputs determine or cause behavior PCT postulates that an organism’s behavior is a means of controlling its perceptions.”
This statement strikes me as being clear, precise and interesting. You make a similar statement in your addition:
"Perceptual control theory (PCT) … follows a tradition…that emphasizes the fact that behaviour
is purposeful rather than “reactionary”.
This statement strikes me as being far less clear, precise and interesting than the one in the existing text. And since it doesn’t explain the difference between purposeful and “reactionary” behavior, it would be easy for a reader to assume that PCT is just a form of cognitive theory, which also talks about behavior being purposeful and goal driven. Indeed, the idea that behavior is purposeful and goal driven is a prominent them of Pinker’s “How the Mind Works”. So when you say that PCT “emphasizes” that behavior is purposeful you are not saying anything with which most psychologists would take issue.
This leads me to my hypothesis about what makes PCT, as properly described in the existing text, seem “fringy” to you and others. I hypothesize that what makes PCT seem fringy are descriptions of PCT that make it clear that it is truly revolutionary, in the sense that, if the theory is correct, then, as Bill Powers said in the Forward to Mind Readings “a whole segment of scientific literature needs to be deposited in the wastebasket”. I think you want to see PCT presented a “hot” – but not too revolutionary – theory, like those that come along every few years in psychology; cognitive dissonance theory, reinforcement theory, cognitive theory, neural network theory, action research theory, etc.
If, indeed, pointing out the revolutionary nature of PCT is what you think makes PCT seem “fringy” then I completely agree with you. People who offer up “revolutionary” theories are, more often than not, either hucksters or screwballs. But sometimes they’re actually courageous geniuses (like Wegener and Mendel). Based on my research I would have to put Powers in the genius class. PCT, I’m afraid, is the real revolutionary deal.
It is possible to describe PCT in a way that makes it appear non-revolutionary – non-fringy. But the problem with that is then people think that’s what PCT is about and you get Carver-Scheier PCT. In other words, you don’t get PCT.
So I vote for putting an accurate description of PCT in the wiki, clearly pointing out how it differs from other theories of behavior. If it seems fringy to people then we’ll know that they are getting the point.
Richard S. Marken PhD