Converting the heathen, etc Converting the heathen Converting the heathen

[From Rick Marken (970920.1750)]

Bruce Gregory (970919.1610 EDT) -

I want to suggest that rather than converting the heathen to the
true faith, we might do better by identifying problems and
solving them.

Fred Nickols (970920.1122 EDT) --

Reads like good counsel to me. Looks like Rick agrees too...

I don't want to give the impression that I favor turning
all of our efforts to the solution of practical problems. I
agree that PCT might get more attention from the lay public
if it were shown to be of practical value in education and
therapy. So I want to participate in efforts to demonstrate the
practical value of PCT. But I strongly object to the notion
that "practical value" is the best test of a theory. If it
were, then Newton's and Einstein's theories would have died
a borning.

The best tests of PCT are the little "balls rolling down
planes" experiments, some of which are available at:

I agree that lay people may find it difficult to see the
relevance of these "tracking" type experiments to their
everyday problems, but Newton would have had a hell of a
time demonstrating the relevance of his theory to all the
problems -- like the problem of building a stable bridge or
keeping a satellite in orbit -- to which his theory now
provides a powerful solution.

I believe that the significant practical applications of,
say, Newton's theory _followed_ its acceptance, based on
very simple, basic observational tests, as the best (at
the time) characterization of the "laws" underlying the
behavior of non-living systems. I think that significant
practical applications of PCT will only be made after people
accept, based on very simple, basic observational tests (like
those at
that it as the best (to date) characterization of the "laws"
underlying the behavior of living systems.

How might one demonstrate that the helping "could not have
been achieved without a good understanding of the details
of PCT"?

I think that there are important aspects of human problems
that are not easy to see unless you are looking at people
"through PCT glasses". Here are a few aspects of human
problems that might be more difficult to see if you were
not wearing PCT glasses.

1. People control what they perceive, not what they do.

2. You can't tell what people are "doing" (the perceptions
they are trying to control) by just watching what they are
doing; you have to test for controlled perceptions.

3. People are controlling many kinds of perceptions at the
same time.

4. People don't care what they _do_ (the actions they produce
to get perceptions where they want them), they only care
what they perceive (including what they perceive themselves
to be doing).

5. Failure to control (to make the world the way one wants it)

6. Consciousness and intention are two separate phenomena; people
can carry out intentions consciously or unconsciously.

7. Attempts to help other people without being aware that
those people are controlling various perceptions is likely
to result in conflict rather than "help".

8. A reinforcer is a controlled perception.

There are many more and they can be stated much more precisely.
But what I am hoping for is a practical application of PCT where
one of more of the specific implications of the PCT model (like
those above) is shown to be the reason for problem solution. I
don't know how to do this myself. The people who can do this
are the one's who are able to look at behavior through PCT
glasses and use PCT to solve human problems.

does your call for such examples indicate that, currently,
there are no such examples?

I think there are cases where PCT principles are currently
being used very successfully to solve problems. Ed Ford's
RTP program comes to mind. But I think we still need some
more rigorous demonstrations that it is PCT per se -- and
not just the fact that Ed is a talented social worker and
teacher -- that is making it work. I don't know what those
demonstrations are, by the way (my forte is writing boring
Java demos, remember;-)) but I azm sure that such demonstrations
can be developed by talented people who are trying to solve
real world problems.

I said:

I'm afraid I'm way behind on responding to posts...I'm kind of
tired of arguing about the same stuff over and over.

Marc Abrams (970920.1055) replies:

Does this pertain to my post on (970917.1020)?

No. I'm sorry. My comment was the result of frustration. I wanted
to reply to a ton of posts on Friday and felt that I would never
have the opportunity or the energy. But now I've cleared off the
one (Hans', of course) that created the most error so I'll try
to answer yours.

I said:

"practicing" involves variations in control loop parameters and

You ask.

Where do these "parameters" reside. "How" are they selected and by
Whom,what :-).

Excellent question. The parameters are probably characteristics
of neurons themselves; they are chemical concentrations and
membrance permeabilities; aspects of neurons that influence
things like how much neural current is transformed into how
much muscle tension. Variations in these parameters are the
output variations of the reorganizing system; the reorganizing
system controls things like the ambient level of error in any
control system. The reorganizing system varies its outputs
(probably randomly) until ambient error (or whatever is controlled)
goes to zero. When the ambient level of error is zero you have
learned (courtesy of the reorganizing system) how to control
whatever variable you were "practicing" control of. Maybe, for
example, you can now do that triple spin that had previously
been ending up as a 2 and 1/2 with a fall at the end (resulting
in the ambient error;-).

How do you "see" (perceive) something you _no nothing_ about.
How do you "know" "what" it is (ie, have given it some meaning)

I don't know how to answer that. To me, the word "perception"
refers to a variable (like a neural signal) that is a function
of some other variable or set of variables. There is no "knowing"
involved in perception. Perceptions are just there. "Knowing"
is itself a perception.

Why? People _do_ change. Catholics become Jews, Jews become

People change when their control of certain perceptions (like
the perception of being Catholic or Jewish) interferes with the
ability to control other perceptions. But it's difficult to
predict how people will change. People don't change their goals
willy nilly -- especially goals that are important to them. If
being Jewish conflicts with having that delicious pork chop
the solution might be to just ignore the rule (you go reform;-));
you're still Jewish but now you get to have fun too. The same is
true of psychological theories; if believing in model-based
control conflicts with all the evidence at:

then just ignore the evidence; you're still a cause-effect
theorist but you get to keep kibbitzing with the PCTers too.

You asked:

How does one _perceive_ something _without_ having knowledge of
it (ie _some_ kind of internal model of what it is that is
being perceived.)

I said:

By having a perceptual function -- a neural network -- that
produces a perceptual signal as a function of sensory input.

You reply:

Rick, Thats a "descriptive" not "explanatory" answer. Can you

Actually, I think it's an explanation. Remember, to me "perception"
is a variable that is a function of other variables. The lamp
on my desk is a perception; it exists (I presume) as a signal
in my brain. That signal is a variable that is a function,
ultimately, of other variables -- the activity in the rod and
cone cells in my retinae.

I said:

A theromostat, for example, has a perception of temperature
yet it has no knowledge (internal model) of what temperature is.

You say:

Bad example. A theromostat is not a "living" organism.

Gee, that's why I thought it was such a good example.

It only has "knowledge" that was "given" to it by someone/thing
else. It has _no_ "ability" to choose as we humans do.

For me, this has nothing to do with the question of how one
perceives something. In PCT the answer to the question "how
does one perceive" is really very simple and straightforward;
one perceives by converting input variables into an output
variable (the perceptual signal); the nature of this conversion --
the nature of the function that converts input variables into
perceptual signal -- determines what is perceived. I perceive
a lamp because there is a neural network that converts sensory
variables in my retina into a perceptual signal that I experience
as a lamp.

Re: Knowing

And if you _can't_ predict accurately you "don't" _know_?
I Don't think so.

Well, it was just an opinion. I'm open to other ideas.


We "know" that a person is controlling in our tracking tasks


During those [tracking] tasks, what else is a person
"controlling" for?

You have to Test to find out.

My point is, "how" do you know "what" a person is "controlling"
for simply by "observing" his behavior.

We are not simply observing behavior; we are watching a variable
(distance from caursor to target) remain stable in the face of
disturbance. We are watching control and we know that one variable,
at least (distance from cursor to target) is under control.

If there is no internal _model_ of any kind what is a perception
compared to?

I said:

If you want to call a reference signal a "model" for what the
perception should be that's OK with me; I think that's exactly
correct. But that is not what "model" means in model-based control.

You said:

I am not talking about MCT. I am talking strictly about our
ability to learn, use, and change internal representations of
our perceptions and reference signals/levels.

Are you thinking that there has to be some internal model of
the world against which a perception has to be compared for
some reason? If so, I guess I just don't understand why. Maybe
if you elaborated a bit on this it might help.




Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: