[From Rick Marken (951012.1550)]
Bruce Abbott (951018.1530 EST)--
we've just seen that much observable behavior cannot be construed as
"irrelevant side-effects of control," as now defined. Therefore, not all
behavioral phenomena studied by "conventional" science take the form of
"irrelevant side-effects," and the above syllogism is proven false.
How do you know which of the side effects of control that have been studied
by conventional psychologists (like "reinforcement," "attachment," "modal
action pattern", etc.) are relevant (influence a variable controlled by the
organism) and which are irrelevant?
It's not the irrelevance of the side effects of control that is a problem for
conventional research methodology; it is the fact that conventional research
methodology cannot discriminate relevant from irrelevant side effects of
control; only PCT methodology can do this; indeed, this is what PCT
methodology is all about.
Conventional methodology deals with appearances; it doesn't provide a means
of systematically getting past appearances to the variables that a control
system is actually controlling. Conventional psychology misses the point of
control completely -- which is, of course, that perceptual variables are
There is simply no way to bail out conventional methodology; the results of
100 years of research in psychology are completely useless -- as we have
shown over and over again in the last year. The only value of conventional
research results is as a starting point for trying to find out what variables
people actually control. We can't answer this question by looking at the
results of the conventional research itself; we can only answer it by going
beyond this research and testing for controlled variables.
I think I know why you want to believe that the methods and results of
conventional research have some value; I don't think it's likely that you
will be disabused of this belief until your conventional methodology
textbook is out of print. This is disappointing because I don't think it is
possible to contribute much to a science of purposeful systems using the
tools and data of the science of cause-effect systems.
Let me take one last crack at explaining why conventional research is
I think the conventional researcher is in the same position as a person
observing the behavior of the subject in my "mind reading" demo. The observer
sees all kinds of interesting "behaviors"; the subject move the numbers in
many interesting patterns; for example, some numbers move in circular
patterns, some in angular patterns, some make broad, sweeping movements,
others make more constrained movements. The conventional researcher picks a
behavior that seems interesting and studies it -- which means, he tries to
find variables that influence the behavior. So the researcher might want to
know why the subject is making the broad, sweeping movements with one number
and constrained movements with another. The researcher might vary things
(like the size of the screen) to see if it has an effect on number movement.
He might find a reasonably strong relationship between screen size and
breadth of number movement; if the relationship is statistically significant,
it becomes another (rarely replicated) fact of conventional research . But
this fact tells us nothing about what the subject is actually doing
(controlling) in this situation. In fact, the subject is only controlling the
position of one number at a time intentionally - - and it is likely that the
number movements that the researcher measured were not the ones made
intenionally by the subject. So the researcher's behavioral data is based on
measures of irrelevant side effects of control -- effects that have nothing
to do with what the subject is controlling. But the researcher knows nothing
of this. If a person who has learned PCT shows up later and wants to analyze
this data in CT terms, there is no way to tell whether the behavior measured
in this study represents controlled results of actions or irrelevant side
effects: there is just no way; it's useless.
Conventional research methodology is as clueless about the possibility that
any measured behavior may be an irrelevant side effect of control as is the
observer of the number movements in the "mind reading" game. Using
conventional research methods to study purposeful behavior is like doing
science with your eyes closed. But if you insist that this is what you want
to do, then all I can say is "have a nice trip; see you next fall".