[From: Bruce Nevin (Mon 921026 11:26:13)]
I've been thinking about this "social control" issue as a problem of
logical typing. I'm not sure how far this can get even as a summary of
the discussion, but here goes.
When I control a perception P, the behavioral outputs or actions A by
which I effect control are typically not themselves perceived as part of
P, and often may not even be perceived at all.
The actions A' of another person commonly are included in perceptions
that I control (are in P for me).
Thus, when I control for the other person X doing thus and so (for
example, contributing to thus and such consequences in my environment)
I seek to manipulate something that X is not actually controlling. The
(perceptions of the) "same" behavioral outputs A' are perceptions of
different logical type for myself and for X, respectively. (Of course,
X's perceptions of the actions include many perceptions available to me
only in imagination, e.g. kinesthetic perceptions.)
If my influence on some of X's actions does not reduce the net efficacy
of all of X's actions in producing results that X *is* controlling, X
does not resist my influence and probably does not even perceive it.
A typical scam attracts X's attention to controlling some perception
with high gain and therefore ceasing to attend to other controlled
perceptions as closely. In a more subtle variation, one could assist X
in controlling for P, in such a way as to offset disturbances to P due
to one's manipulation of A. We have all had people offer to help with
There is an added complication in that for normative, convention-
oriented behavior we do include aspects of our behavioral outputs or
actions A among our controlled perceptions P. Thereby hangs a long tale
that we have touched on in the past and I am sure shall again, having to
do with why and how we perceive (recreate?) social norms and orient our
own behavioral outputs to them. What is germane here is the possibility
of manipulating our own actions according to conventional norms so as to
trick another person into perceiving our relative status and
relationship wrongly, but in a way advantageous to ourselves.
Ordinarily, the details of the behavioral outputs that we call
generically body language are beyond conscious manipulation, not just in
humans but in all mammals, and probably in other kinds of critters as
well. Bateson suggests that there is an evolutionary basis for this.
They are the means by which we make ourselves predictable to one
another. If they were consciously manipulated by members of a group,
they could not serve this purpose and the group (and its members) would
not survive as well.
I think it is important and informative to us that members of a social
group willingly make themselves more predictable to one another in ways
that we talk about as social norms or conventions. They evidently
maintain these pre-established agreements (of little direct consequence
in themselves) as a basis for more substantive ad hoc agreement and
cooperation. The alternatives, generalized as social isolation,
ostracism, banishment, appear to evoke great anxiety, at least among
mammals, and this suggests to me intrinsic error.
I think it is important and informative to us that almost universally
the behavioral outputs by which we enact social norms are kept out of
awareness, deliberately not subject to conscious manipulation. They are
controlled perceptions subsumed under system concepts (I think that's
the right level) like "being a member of this group." And we are very
sensitive to discrepencies and inconsistencies that might betray an
outsider trying to "pass" as a member.
(Bill Powers (921024.0830) ) --
If we want to change the way in which another person acts, without
getting into conflict with the other, we can only arrange ourselves
and the world we perceive so that the other has a different way of
getting what the other values most, a way that suits us better. This
means that we must also change what matters less to us in order to
continue to control what matters more. This process requires us to
know ourselves well, and to help the other to the same degree of self-
knowledge so that the other can tell us what matters more. It requires
mutual consent to change, a mutual sense of advantage in maintaining
Hear, hear! But be it noted that many scams depend upon the mark being
a "nice guy" and accommodating the perpetrator in just this way.
And many garden-variety misunderstandings (perhaps most) depend upon
differences in how the participants parse the "same" behavioral outputs
as constituting quite different communicative acts (e.g. a reminder as
part of responsible teamwork, vs. nagging). Knowing oneself involves
not just knowing what matters more or less than what else, but also
knowing what constitutes an instance of a perception that matters. This
is not a given of the environment, it is a matter of ongoing negotiation
of agreements. It is no wonder that we sacrifice much to conventions
and norms, social life would be ungraspably complex without them.