FW: Behavior: The Phlogiston of PCT (1998)

Hi Warren,

I’m just interested what you meant with :

  1.   »What follows logically, to me, is that if we see non-perceptual variables being controlled (to various degrees of success)….«. Which are non-perceptual variables ?
  2.   »…not that nothing other than perception can ever be controlled (even slightly!)«. What does it mean »nothing other than perceptions« ?



From: Warren Mansell [mailto:wmansell@gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2014 2:59 PM
To: Boris Hartman
Cc: csgnet@lists.illinois.edu
Subject: Re: Behavior: The Phlogiston of PCT (1998)

Hi Boris, I agree with all of these quotes (obviously!). None of us are questioning that behaviour is the control of perception. I just can’t see the proposal that behaviour is the control of perception rules out that behaviour, or other environmental variables, can be controlled. It doesn’t follow logically. What follows logically, to me, is that if we see non-perceptual variables being controlled (to various degrees of success) that will ALWAYS be because their perception is being controlled through one or more other agents’ behaviour…My understanding is that Bill explained to us that control is ALWAYS implemented through the control of input of a negative feedback system of some kind, not that nothing other than perception can ever be controlled (even slightly!). To the degree that the perception of the environmental variable covaries with the environmental variable (as in Bill’s 2008 weightings in his conflict demos) then that control system controls that environmental variable, which is shared by other systems AND is the cause of the conflict to some degree. It will never be exact but will often be refined through reorganisation.

I am writing this post, but I don’t want it to distract from the other one as that is a bit more meaty!


On Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 10:35 AM, “Boris Hartman” csgnet@lists.illinois.edu wrote:

Hi Rick,

Text bellow….

From: Richard Marken (rsmarken@gmail.com via csgnet Mailing List) [mailto:csgnet@lists.illinois.edu]
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2014 1:07 AM
To: csgnet@lists.illinois.edu
Subject: Re: Behavior: The Phlogiston of PCT (1998)

[From Rick Marken (2014.12.14.1605)]

Martin Taylor (2014.–

MT: With the observable fact that the sun goes around the earth, one can look at it in a different way and imagine a new theory, that the earth rotates and that THEREFORE to one standing on the rotating earth it looks as though the sun goes round the earth. Such a break with observable truth can cause a lot of pain to the proponents of the new theory that denies the obvious fact.

MT: So it has been with Powers and his theory that what is controlled is NEVER something in the environment, but is always a perception of that thing, and THEREFORE it looks as though behaviour controls the thing in the environment. Is it a wonder that Powers’s beautiful theory of PERCEPTUAL CONTROL has trouble making headway when it contradicts such an directly observable fact as that behaviour controls things in the environment?

RM: This is the most completely incorrect description of what PCT is about that I have ever read. I will give a more detailed explanation later but this was such a huge disturbance that I just had to react immediately. The statement that Powers’ theory says “that what is controlled is NEVER something in the environment” is completely false. It says nothing of the kind.

HB :

Martin’s description of PCT is the most correct description I ever saw beside Bill’s. As Martin said once or twice : you should go and sleep and read it again. If you’ll think that you are still right than I’m inviting *barb, all PCT thinkers and IAACT to contribute for protection of PCT. I’ll start with some Bill’s thought, although there are evidence of his briliant theory everywhere in his work :

Bill P :

What are you experiencing is not object outside you, but a set of neural signals representing something outside you. You don’t need to look inside your head to find perceptions : When you look at your hand, you’re alredy looking at them.

Bill P :

Our only view of the real world is our view of the neural signals the represent it inside our own brains. When we act to make a perception change to our more desireble state – when we make perception of the glass change from “on the table” to " near the mouth" – we have no direct knowledge of what we are doing to the reality that is the origin of our neural signal; we know only the final result, how the result looks, feels, smells, sounds, tastes, and so forth.

Bill P :

That is why we say in PCT that behavior is the process by which we control our own perceptions.

Bill P :

It means that we produce actions that alter the world of perception, and that we do so specifically to make the state of that world conform to the reference conditions we ourselves have choosen (to the extent we change the perceptions of our actions).

Bill P :

It means that we produce actions that alter the world of perceptions.

Bill P :

If you change perception you change the world arround as it appears to be.

Bill P :

Half of the jokes in the world are about one person assuming that everyone else sees the world the same way.

Bill P :

The two problems go together : the problem of reaching agreement with each other about reality and the problem that all perception is fundamentaly private.

Bill P :

Using the internal point of view, we can understand many aspects of behavior by seeing control as control of perception rather than of an objective world. We can make sense not only of other people’s behavior, but of our own, using the same concept of perceptual control.

Bill P :

A control system controls what it senses, and what it senses is the result of applying a continuous transformaton process to the elementary sensory inputs to the nervous system.

Bill P :

Stabilization against disturbances means that “controlled quantities” is affected both by independent influences and by actions of the system itself, and that the system’s actions systematically oppose the effects of disturbances on the controlled quantity. If system is to stabilize some quantity it must sense that quantity and it must have an internal standard against which to compare the outcome of that sensing process – a reference with respect to which the sensed quantity can be judged as too little, just right, or too much. The action of the system is based on that judgement, not on the sensed quantity itself nor on the reference itself nor on the disturbances. Departures of the controlled quantity from the reference level are what lead to the actions, that limit those departures to a small or even negligible size.

BP :

REALITY [Directly perceived] : The world as subjectively experienced, including mental activities, feelings, concepts, as wel as the subjective impression of three-dimensional outside universe. [External] : A directly-perceived set of hypotheses, beleifs, deducations, and organized models purporting to explain directly perceived reality in terms of underlying phenomena and laws.

BP :

Human beings do not plan actions and then carry them out; they do not respond to stimuli according to the way they have been reinforced. They control. They never produce any beahvior except for the purposes of making what they are experiencing become more like what they intend or want to experience, and then keeping it that way even in a changing world. If they plan they perceptions, not actions.

BP :

Negative feed-back control is the basic principle of life.

BP :

A hierarchy of perceptions that somehow represents an external world, and a large collection of Complex Environmental Variables (as Martin Taylor calls them) is mirrored inside the brain in the form of perceptions«.

Briefly, then: what I call the hierarchy of perceptions is the model.

When you open your eyes and look around, what you see – and feel, smell, hear, and taste – is the model. In fact we never experience ANYTHING BUT the model. The model is composed of perceptions of all kinds from intensities on up.

KM :

Perceptual control theory holds that human behavior consists of controlling perceptions, not actions. In other words, people’s actions are merely a by-product of their attempts to stabilize their perceptions in conformity with their own desires and preferences.


Actually the other player (like everyone else) is controlling their own perceptions, not their actions.


Despite appearances, there is only one side! — symbolizing perhaps the illusion of regarding external action as what is “real” and leading to (after close observation, experience, testing, and reflection) the “reality” (a perception) of behavior as the control (or “heart” as in the IAACT mission statement) of perception.

MT: How much less of a wonder is it when even someone who worked with Powers for decades argues repeatedly and forcefully for the truth of the so-called “observable fact” that Powers went to such lengths to show was just an illusory natural consequence of the truth of his theory.

RM: Actually, I argued for the “so-called observable fact” of control right in front of Bill for at least 25 years (for example, see my paper Marken, R. S. (1988) The Nature of Behavior: Control as Fact and Theory. Behavioral Science, 33, 196- 206, reprinted in “Mind Readings”) and Bill not only never chided me for doing so but adopted the phrase “the fact of control” as the subtitle to his last book. Therefore, I would suggest that the only illusion here is that Powers went to any lengths at all to show that the “observable fact of control” is just an illusory natural consequence of the truth of his theory.

HB :

And I can’t beleive that you are defending your wrong position. For at least 14.000.000 years people thought like you that they can control their environment with behavior. And than Bill happened. But I know that somewhere is PCT Rick…

I’ve argued many times when Bill was with us that he is giving protection to your »behavioral excursions«. But you were »Powers friend« as you are probably today. I suppose that nobody will act to stop your confussion and misleading on CSGnet.

And for the controversary of your »double thinking«, tell me what are the differences about your oppinion to Richard (previou post) and your oppinion to Martin (your last post)?





Richard S. Marken, Ph.D.
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Dr Warren Mansell
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