Conflict and incompetence

The following is quoted from the Collective Control topic:

Internal conflict could give rise to the appearance that one incompetent control system is controlling when in fact it is a virtual controller emergent from a conflict. This could be relevant to problems in training and education, where the student or trainee appears incapable of learning properly.

Actually, the virtual controller is far from incompetent. In McClelland’s “canonical” example, it has a gain equal to the sum of the gains of the two conflicting controllers, and a reference value equal to a weighted average of the reference values of the conflicted controllers. The weights are the gains of the individual controllers.

Other than that, it’s just like any other “real” controller in McClelland’s example). In general, the more individual controllers form part of a virtual controller, the more competent the virtual controller. If you want to call it incompetent, you may take a cue from Henry Higgins in the musical version of Shaw’s “Pygmalion” (My Fair Lady), when he says “And rather than do either/We do spmething that neither wants at all.” Both Higgins and Eliza might call that “incompetent”.

Oh yes, it is competent for the emergent reference value.

What I mean is internal conflict in which only one side is in awareness at a time–the normal entry situation for MoL. Controlling an intermediate value, or any value other than that which is specified, is not perceived as success or competence for the controller that is in awareness. .

RM: Where is the internal conflict in this situation? In the model, none of the agents has an internal conflict. With different references for the same variable each agent is suffering from chronic internal error; but this error is a result of the interpersonal conflict, not any intrapersonal conflict. And since this is the case – since all or many of the agents are suffering chronic error, I can’t imagine the variable being virtually controlled will be so for long. The agents will either start reorganizing or some agents will simnply overpower the others and win the conflict and get the variable to their reference, leaving the rest with their now extremely large errors. Is this supposed to be a model of something other than a tug of war?

I’ll spell it out. Martin and Kent refer to external conflict. I’m drawing an analogy to internal conflict.

I’m applying to internal conflict what is proposed about the external conflict as Kent described it. Conflict is conflict. The outward appearance of the external conflict appears to an observer to be control by a ‘virtual controller’. I ask whether internal conflict could appear like control by a ‘virtual controller’. Then if the person in conflict was aware of only one of the conflicting reference values, and stated that as his or her purpose, but for unconscious reasons (control by the conflicting system) was unable to control according to that value, would the person seem to be incompetent?

Interpersonal conflict can result in ‘virtual control’ that persists, despite the conflict, if the variable at the value at which it is controlled is relatively unimportant, e.g. relative to other control that would be degraded if resources were devoted to fighting to win the conflict, or if environmental effects of virtual control (including perhaps side effects) are ‘good enough’ for other purposes, especially if they serve in the environmental feedback function for control of more important variables

Hi Bruce

BN: I’m applying to internal conflict what is proposed about the external conflict as Kent described it. Conflict is conflict.

RM: Sure. I’m just interested in the phenomena you are modeling: the virtual controlled variable. What is an real world example of a virtual controlled variable resulting from interpersonal and/or interpersonal conflict. I can think of some but they seem rather rare and transitory (though fun), such as a tug of war, arm wrestling (both resulting in interpersonal conflicts; can you name the virtually controlled variables?) and being briefly frozen at an intersection (intrapersonal conflict).



Questions like “I wonder …” and “what if …” are the heart and soul of science. I’m not modeling anything. I’m asking a leading question. If we observe something about interpersonal conflict, does it apply to intrapersonal conflict?

We have many times drawn the parallel the opposite way, in the proposal that participants in a conflict should ‘go up a level’ (actually, two levels) to resolve it.

As to examples, pick any of the examples of conflict given in the MoL literature. The experience of being incompetent at controlling variables that matter is a common theme throughout.

If interpersonal conflict gives rise to the emergent appearance that a ‘virtual controller’ is controlling at the observed reference level, but interpersonal conflict does not, why not? Could we model inter- and intrapersonal conflict in a way that predicts and explains such a difference? At present, a model of conflict is a model of conflict, no difference.

Or you could make the question go away by denying the premise. That beef is with Kent and Martin, not with me.

Of course conflict is not the only occasion for the appearance of there being a virtual controller. When we name a social institution as an agent we’re invoking the notion of a virtual controller.

The city highway department should fix these potholes.
But this is a state road. You’ll have to complain the state department of transportation.
I’m taking it straight to to the governor’s office!
Why don’t you write a letter to the papers, get public opinion behind you.