[From Rick Marken (971203.1300)]
Dan Miller (971203.1300) --
Dissonance theories are a types of balance theories - as is PCT.
I suppose one could associate reducing dissonance with reducing
error, but the stretch would upset the PCT Police (and rightfully so).
Actually, I think dissonance reduction is precisely error reduction.
Cognitive dissonance theory (as I understand it) _is_ control theory.
What are controlled are "cognitions" (high order perceptions in
PCT speak). One cognition functions as a reference, the other is
a perception. The theory predicts what an individual will do to
make a cognition (like "how much I'm being paid") match a reference
("how much I should be paid").
My problem with theories like cognitive dissonance is not that they
are "bad" theories (though cognitive dissonance could be stated far
more clearly and quantitatively). My problem with such theories (and
this includes _all_ non-PCT applications of control theory to behavior,
not just cognitive dissonance) is that the theorists don't understand
how their theories work. Control systems control perceptions; that's
true of all control systems, living and artificial. If cognitive
dissonance theory is a control theory (and I believe it is) then
the way to test it is to determine whether people actually control
the cognitions that the theory says they control. So you can't
test cognitive dissonance theory using group data the way cognitive
dissonance theoriests did. And you can't test it using the conventional
IV-DV approach the way cognitive dissonance theorists did. You have
to test cognitive dissonance theory by specifying what cognition(s)
you think a person is controlling and testing to see if the person is
actually controlling them; you have to test for controlled variables.
I have always thought that the essense of PCT was in the methodology.
Perhaps this is a bias that comes from the fact that I was trained
as an experimentalist. But the fact is that PCT, as theory, is
just plain vanilla control theory, and as Hans was fond of pointing
out, there are ways to make basic PCT a hell of a lot more complex
than it is (theorists always seem interested in making theories more
complex since that's really all they have to play with; we researchers
are happy when theories are simple, not only because we're not as smart
as theorists but also because we have reality -- perceptual reality --
to play with). What's been missing from the behavioral sciences is
not control theories but research aimed at testing to determine whether
people control what these theories say they control.
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: email@example.com