An idea I thought I might mention concerning causation and behavior.
Between comments made on the net and some thinking of my own, I have found
two means of expressing causal relationships concerning volitional
behavior. Which of the following sets of statements is preferable? I find
#1 to be more precise in meaning, #2 to be more to the point.

1) Outcomes are influenced by the environment and reference signals.
    Outcomes are determined by reference signals.
    Actions are influenced by the environment and reference signals.
    Actions are determined by the environoment.
    Actions control outcomes.

2) The cause of an outcome is the reference signal with the environment as
the enabling condition.
    The cause of and acton is the environment, with the reference signal as
the enabling condition.
    Actions control outcomes.

I can add that reference signals within the hierarchy, when the hierarchy
is viewed as a whole, are determined #1("caused, #2) by the environment
since they are the integrations (summations, combinations?) of higher level
outputs, which as I said above #1 are determined by the environment. Of
course if we are refering to a reference signal at, say, level 4 and we
begin our analysis at level 4, then we do not speak as if that reference
signal is determined by the environment since its a derivative of the
"autonomy from the top." But if we took a step back and viewed the entire
hierarchy, we would say that the reference signals at level 4 are
determined by the environment.

I would appreciate if replies could be sent to my mailbox at since I can't keep up with the net's pace. See ya in

Carpe' Diem
Mark Olson

Educational Psychology 210 USmail: 405 South 6th St. #4

College of Education Champaign, IL 61820
Univ of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
phone: (home) 351-8257 e-mail: (Internet)
       (office) 244-8080 (Bitnet) FREE0850@uiucvmd

Restating my initial ideas:
  Outcomes are influenced by the environment and reference signals.
    Outcomes are determined by reference signals.
    Actions are influenced by the environment and reference signals.
    Actions are determined by the environment.
    Actions control outcomes.

First, yes, indeed I made these statements with the assumption of low
intrinsic error.

Second, these statements were only meant to describe relationships within
one isolated control system, not considering the hierarchy as a whole. I
intended on addressing that issue next, but Bill already beat me to it.
I'll say more on that later.

Third, the terms I use (influence, determine, control) are defined by Bill
(910509) as follows:

"A influences B if A is one of the several variables on which the state of
B depends...A determines B if, given A, B is completely predictible...A
controls B if, for every disturbance applied to, A changes its influence on
B in such a way as to counteract the effect of the disturbance on B."

Bill and I either disagree or are not using these terms in the same manner.
For instance, Bill states (920617):
"(a) The reference signal and input function determine the state of the
input quantity in the environment...(b) The reference signal and external
disturbances jointly determine the output quantity....(c) The total
disturbance, composed of d1a and d1b, and the second-level reference
signal, jointly determine the second-level output, which translates into
qi1b in this case."

Here, I would use "influence" where Bill uses "determine." In (a) I would
use "influence," not "determine" since the input quantity is predictible
solely by knowing the reference signal. In (b), "influence" is appropriate
since the output quantity is not predictible on the basis of the reference
signal. In (c), I would save the word "determine" for the reference

If we are using different terms with the same meaning in mind, then we
agree. Do we agree, Bill? Or do you mean "determine" the way I (you)
define it above? Perhaps the problem resides in tht I have difficulty
making a distinction between an input quantity and input function, an
output quantity and output function, a disturbance quantity and disturbance

Now, back to my second paragraph. Bill states (920617)

"(b) The reference signal and external disturbances jointly determine the
output quantity.

Statement (b) says that given a constant reference signal, variations in
the disturbance call forth specific variations of the output quantity or
action, in the manner of an apparent causal relationship. The determining
effect of the disturbance on the output, however, is subject to the
condition that the sum of disturbance and output effects always equal a
particular value: the value of the input quantity determined by the
reference signal. This balance point, therefore, can change if the
reference signal changes. This is why the action of the system is JOINTLY
determined by disturbances and the reference signal, and not exclusively
determined by either."

I would further support my statement that the output is determined
exclusively by the environment (inluenced by the environment and reference
signal) and NOT jointly determined because the change of reference signals
Bill refers to is the result to higher level systems changing to counter
environmental disturbances. At some level the reference signal is stable
and the changing reference signal (level n)/output (level n+1) are
determined entirely by the environment. The changing reference signal
which Bil says jointly determines the output is itself determined by the
environment, albeit an "internal environment" depending on the level of
analysis." This seems consistent with the conclusions arising from the
dialogue between Bill and Greg a month ago on Autonomy.

I agree with Bill when he states:

"At any level of interpretation, statements (a) and (b) will hold true --
but with many systems at each level, each level has to be considered anew.
When a single control system at one level receives reference signals from
several higher systems, there can be no simple relationship between
disturbances of a given higher-level perception and the resulting change in
the lower-level net reference signal."

and in some sense I agree with Bill when he states (910615) that perhaps
ordinary language limits understanding of such concepts. On the other
hand, it is not so much ones language that makes understanding difficult
but the dynamic nature of the beast itself. Words or no words, volitions
or no volitions, the interactions within complex dynamical systems are (to
be understated) difficult to understand. I can at least hope to put words
to what I do understand, so I disagree that such attempts are not
useful--it at least allows us to talk about it.

Finally, Bill states:

"Both of these statements describe apparent causal relationships, which are
different from those that actually exist in the control system. That is,
the "determination" takes place through a path different from the one that
appears to exist. These two statements describe appearances, but not the
actual organization of a control system."

I have tried to make a distinction between "actual causal relationships"
and "instrumental (appearances) causal relationships" and have concluded
for the time being thta any distinction made between the two is an
instrumental one, not actual. The issue still perplexes me, but my guess
is that the above is the case because the concept of "cause" is useful for
organisms such as ourselves in adapting to our environment. It may be akin
to making a distinction between "actual color" and "appeared color" (excuse
the awkward wording) (This is probably a poor analogy though). If I inject
you with a drug, do I say that the cause of death was injecting the drug,
or any one of the number of chemical reactions which occured along the way
to the point of death? I don't think any answer is better than another.
Some causes are more remote/proximal than others, but neither is more the
cause than the other. I am justified is saying that _a_ cause of the grass
dying was the application of fertilizer even if a more proximal cause was
some "chemical reaction x" of which I have no knowledge. so when Bruce
states (920616): "How do reference signals influence outcomes other than by
way of actions?" I agreee with his point but still contend that I need not
mention the entire causal pathway. I think "cause" is closer to
"influence" than "determine" for related reasons.

So, I still contend thta my original formulation is accurate for a single
control system, using Bill's definitions (910509). I like what Bill said

"Considering only the first-level system, we still have the reference
determining the input quantity, now qi1b. This means that the output of the
second-level system is, as far as second-level control is concerned, not
qo1 but qi1b. The input quantity of the first-level system, not the output
quantity, will appear to be the action of the second-level system."

I would restate that as "action (level 2) = outcome (level 1)" which can be
used to derive the relationships within the hierarchy. This may become
extremely complex, and perhaps too linear, but still useful nonetheless.

Oh, one last thing in response to Bill's post (920615):

" A lever has the property that pushing down on one end makes
the other end go up. So it determines that IF you want the far end to go
up, THEN you push down on the near end. Skinner used the term "contingency"

for this: movement of the far end is contingent on movement of the near
end. Not a bad term.

But the lever neither causes nor influences anything by just sitting there.

The variable position of its far end, given the lever's properties, is
influenced in a particular way by the action of moving the near end. It is
also influenced by independent forces acting anywhere along the lever. The
lever doesn't determine whether any such actions or forces will occur."

I do not catch your point in your example with the lever, but I will say
this: it is not correct to say that the variable position of the far end
is influenced by moving of the near end. Causal relationships must be
temporal. An increase in air temperature within a balloon does not cause
an increase in pressure (if volume and n remain the same). They are
interchangable since PV=nrt. No temporal relationship exists. Pushing
down on one end of the lever is identical to making the other end go up; it
does not cause it. Pushing causes "going down"/"going up"; it is not the
case the pushing causes "going down" which in turn causes "going up."

Carpe' Diem


Educational Psychology 210 USmail: 405 South 6th St. #4

College of Education Champaign, IL 61820
Univ of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
phone: (home) 351-8257 e-mail: (Internet)
       (office) 244-8080 (Bitnet) FREE0850@uiucvmd