Digest of recent informal/formal PCT research proposals

[From Bryan Thalhammer (2001.05.07.1045 CDT)]

Dear all,

In the last couple of months, several posts have been made and off-net
notes that may have been addressed in part to filling the gap left when we
(you?) stopped sniping, and returned to pursuing the goal of "informed,
substantive discussion of the control theory model of behavior". It has
been suggested that the suggested disbanding of the CSG will be controlled
by some participants [Bill Powers (2001.04.16.0904 MDT)]. Some actually
have responded that this is what they will actually do [Bruce Nevin
(2001.04.20 18:03 EDT)]. My suggestion is to gather that which is NOT
bathwater, including the baby! Now, I don't really want to be directive or
coercive, or whatever... Just another T&E attempt to feature the posts in
a way to make some use of them. Do what you want with them:

Here is a digest of several threads in summary form with some related posts
or replies from participants. Now, do we have as many potential projects
that need formal proposals, critique, prototyping, etc.? I am sure that my
non-systematic survey of my CSG-mailbox left out some posts. PLEASE, if
you think this is the right direction, reply to this, and/or fill in
proposals I missed, or add to them from your own un-posted sketches for
experiments, quasi-experiments, case studies or proposed writing. In some
of the items I paraphrased or summarized the idea in the original post.
But where you see "quotes" or ">" these are the words of the authors. I do
not further intend to organize this information, all I'm wanting to do is
provide a summary. Kinda interesting, though, the ideas that have been
offered in the last few months. Lloyd Klinedinst, perhaps some topics for
discussion at the conference this summer?


1. [Dick Robertson (2001.04.27)]: "A student's work in a course as an
instance of control-- controlling for a chosen grade?"

   [Chuck Tucker (2001.04.28.0805 EST)]
   >BTW, I have asked the students in every class for the last 15 years
this question:
   >"Given your ways of studying, your priority for this course and past
   >performance, circle the grade you will get in this course.
   > A B+ B C+ C"
   >Of about 3500 students who have answered this question only about 10 have
   >selected a C+ or C about 90% of the students select "A." I can tell you that
   >my students do in fact "control" for the grades in my courses and most are
   >disappointed in their grade even though I do not "curve" my grades so it is
   >possible for everyone in the class to get an "A." It is rare for more that
   >20% of the students to get an "A" in my courses. I believe that with a
   >"normal" curve that only 10% would receive an "A."

   [Bruce Nevin (01.05.02 14:13 EDT)]
   >Get a student web maven to write up a little calculator for your class web
   >page. A prof in computer science might assign this to someone, for example.
   >This should be an HTML form in which each element (quizzes, exams, paper)
   >has a blank that they fill in with their actual (or, if desired, future)
   >grade. Display the calculated result for them. You could have it access
   >current grades from a file that you keep current. (There could be another
   >form available only to you by which you update that database after each
   >quiz, etc.) The program would have to use existing security mechanisms as
   >for email to restrict the student to only her own data.

   [Bruce Abbott (2001.05.05.0955 EST)]
   >...These considerations [see Bruce's post] suggest that an elementary
   >control-system model of
   >student course grade control is not going to be adequate. That model does
   >not specify how the reference should change and does not include the effects
   >of conflicting control systems, limitations on output resources, the
   >constraint on course grade imposed by earlier course performance, etc. In
   >short, it's too simple and as it stands, can account for virtually any
   >outcome post hoc.
   >I'm not saying that this effort should be abandoned, but I do think that
   >some careful thinking needs to be done _in advance of collecting data_ to
   >develop a more adequate model or models. The model(s) will then tell you
   >what additional variables you need to collect data on in the course of the

   [Chris Cherpas (2001.05.03.0100 PT)]
   >I really appreciate your posts containing practical (and theoretically
   >interesting) questions, experiences, and ideas regarding PCT in
   >education. To me, it is especially significant how naturally PCT
   >utilizes the power of computers for education. It's also nice to get
   >a little glimpse of how Keller's "personalized system of
   >instruction" and Skinner's "teaching machine" could really
   >improve education -- given the right theoretical framework!

2. (Richard Kennaway [2001.05.03]): A walking robot developed via a
hierarchical control structure of simple controllers, based on perceptual
control theory rather than by very complex methods.

   >ABSTRACT <http://www.sys.uea.ac.uk/studentships/ABSTRACT34.html>
   >The construction of a walking robot presents challenging problems of
   >which are usually attacked by very complex methods. We propose to develop a
   >hierarchical control structure of simple controllers, based on
perceptual control
   >theory. Simulation studies of a multi-legged walking robot have given
   >results. The robot is able to walk over uneven terrain and up and down
stairs, and
   >navigate to a landmark. It can resist external forces, cope with the
loss of a leg,
   >and can be built to operate with any number of legs from four upwards.
The simulation
   >includes models of several different types of physical actuator. This
project would
   >involve extending the simulation work and constructing an actual robot.

   (Bill Powers (2001.05.04.1442 MDT)]
   >The "avatar" looks great, and works pretty well on my 360 MHZ desktop. I
   >appreciate the problem you mention with the three-hinge approximation for a
   >ball-and-socket joint, but it seems to me there must be a better solution.

3. [Bruce Nevin (2001.04.23)] to Bryan Thalhammer: "Another that wasn't
so readily obvious to me in the PCT hierarchy is when some element is
missing.... Usually this devolves to the... explanation: you don't notice
something's missing until you need it to control some perception. But
sometimes you just have a sense that something's changed, and you explore
with various senses until you find out what it is. This could be some
system that uses the missing X as means for controlling its controlled
variable. Currently control by that system is low gain and "subconscious",
but it has not stopped controlling (in imagination, I suppose). The error
in imagined control results in a shift of awareness, at first a sense that
something's wrong, then something's changed, something's missing, where's
my pen? Now, how would you test that hypothesis?"

   [Bill Curry (2001.0418.1240 DST)]
   >...what is this word "expectation" if not a verbalized
   >reference value for an imagined, but nevertheless controlled, perceptual
   >variable (as distinguished from a controlled environmental variable)? I can
   >imagine an infinite number of solar paths but I control for that set I have
   >observed for lo, these many years. My control of this perceptual variable
   >would be highly disturbed by the sun rising in the North (echoing the
   >distraught confusion of aborigines during an solar eclipse).

   Me Today [Bryan Thalhammer (2001.05.07.1030 CDT)]
   >If a perception conflicts with its reference signal, that is, a particular
   >desktop landscape should incorporate a pen and right now, it doesn't,
an error
   >signal is created, which is amplified as re-directing one's gaze
   >to alternate desktop landscapes, to reduce the error, that is,
   >in order to perceive in accordance with the reference signal. Seems
   >forward to me. Like, one might test this with something similar to what is
   >different between two pictures. Maybe no one is really controlling the
   >difference between a cartoon figure holding a beer mug and a coffee cup, and
   >such a session would not be useful. But perhaps a setting in which the
   >to maintain something in the setting would result in an error signal at a
   >higher level control system, such as principle or system image
   >would allow some manipulation. I would have to think a bit before I would
   >draft an experimental design. I (or Bruce N.?) would appreciate some advice
   >from participants (Bill, Dick, Bruce A., etc.?)

4. [From Dan Palmer (2000.05.06)]: "As part of my PhD research (my
guiding question is: "What is psychology about?") here in Australia, I'm
about to conduct a series of PCT-informed experiments on silent reading.
In this post, I was hoping to get some PCT informed opinions on whether I'm
going about things the right way."

   [Bruce Abbott (2001.05.06.1315 EST)]
   >One thing I'd add to this study if you don't already have it is a measure of
   >each participant's reading rate under natural conditions. I have a feeling
   >that under natural reading conditions the participant varies his or her rate
   >as needed for comprehension. More difficult passages would be read more
   >slowly than easier ones.
   >Rhythmic (periodic) variation of disturbance values introduces some
   >complications that you might wish to avoid -- there is the possibility that
   >your participants will learn the pattern and attempt to anticipate the
   >changes. The presence of such a strategy could complicate the analysis.
   >Using smoothly varying random disturbances prevents this.
   >How are you going about analyzing your data?

5. Ray ( CST Aust.): "Can you explain the nature of control
using a demo that makes easy reading for someone not schooled in the areas
you are?

   [Bill Powers (2001.03.20.0727 MST)]
   >This is a question that has interested me for a long time. One problem is
   >that without knowing what a person already knows or thinks he knows, it's
   >hard to guess what will be new and what will be familiar.

   [Dag Forssell (2001.0321.0920)]
   >Amen! Seems to me that this is a major issue for those of us who attempt
   >to teach PCT. I sure appreciate your post.

6. [Jeff Vancouver (2001.03.21.1200 EST)]: "I have developed a system
dynamics model of the reorganization process in Vensim. It is not pretty,
but I would appreciate any feedback on it. Rather than attaching it to
this post, I will attach it and a brief explanation to requests for it
(please send requests to vancouve@ohio.edu). I made it in the DSS version
of Vensim (thanks Fred), but it can be viewed and run in the PLE32

7. [Bruce Nevin (010427 22:38 EDT)]: "At the CSG meeting this summer I
want to do a little demo of linguistic work with an informant, and let
those observing judge whether or not it
falls acceptably within PCT methodology."

8. [Stefan Balke ( CET)]: "I have a hypothesis about the
perceptual variable under control (being the most important adult in the
live of the spouse) and invent a situation, where this perception is maybe
or maybe not affected. The test is positive if the person consistently
gives answers to counteract the disturbances to the perceptual variable
(being number one). He should do something (consistently in one or another
way) to influence his wife in a way that she gives him the "number one"
impression. The test is negative if the person doesn't try to gather
informations about how the spouse evaluates the smart compliment giver in
relation to how she evaluates himself."

9. Bill Powers (2001.02.03.0639 MST)]: "This (attached [Abbott on
Skinner.doc]) post from Bruce Abbott has been sitting on my disc for a year
and a half. I started to answer it long ago, but didn't feel up to the
effort and put it aside. That's happened a couple of times. I'm going to
try again, with no guarantees that it will come out any better. I'll simply
reproduce Bruce's post, and insert my comments in boldface. When I'm done,
I'll send the result to CSGnet as a Word 97 attachment, to preserve the
formatting. I'll send a hard copy to anyone who can't read Word 97
documents. Quoted paragraphs (>) are Bruce's quotes from an earlier post by