Conversion experience

[From Rick Marken (950308.1300)]

Bruce Nevin (Thu 950306 13:16:58 EST) -

We're using the term "conversion experience" in different ways...I mean a
profound "aha!" experience

Sorry I misunderstood. I like your meaning.

The grasping of PCT might be less cataclysmic for some than for others.

I agree.

I got the impression from something you wrote a few years ago (a) that your
experience was pretty dramatic for you and (b) that if someone else had a
more pedestrian response you concluded that they didn't really get it. My
apology for my presumption. Is this completely mistaken?

The experience that was dramatic for me was not the "aha" experience of
grasping PCT - - indeed, I'm still trying to grasp PCT. The dramatic
experience was the realization that, if PCT is correct, then the foundations
of my discipline (psychology) are false. As an experimental psychologist I
knew that nothing is more fundamental to experimental research than the
assumption that b = f(s): the way an organism responds (b) to changes in
experimental conditions (s) is supposed to reveal something about the nature
of the organism (the function, f(), that transforms input conditions into
responses). PCT shows that this is not the case. It was a shock to be
confronted with the fact that everyhting I had been confidently taught by
some of the most famous psychologists in the country (Premack, Gazzaniga,
etc) was utterly wrong; and this, just as I was starting my career as a
professor of psychology. THAT was the dramatic experience.

I don't judge people's understanding of PCT by the stength of their
response to it; Tom Bourbon, for example, has told me that his response to
PCT was quite pedestrian but I know that Tom certainly does "get it". I think
what you might have been picking up on is the fact that I do expect people
who "really get" PCT to be willing to abandon old theoretical committments
that are contradicted by PCT: information in perception, reinforcement,
stimulus control, selection by consequences, social hierarchies, linguistic
contrasts, etc etc. But I am trying to moderate my expectations. I still
think that people don't "really get" PCT until they are ready to turn their
back on old theoretical committments but I can now see that a person can
still understand an awful lot about PCT while still retaining these old
committments. It's rather like an evolutionary biologist remaining committed
to the truth of the Biblical creation myth(s). I think this happens (wasn't
Tielhard de Chadin an example?) and it doesn't seem to be a problem as long
as the science and the mythology can be kept separate in one's head.