FW: Wiki update - redefining behavior

[From Fred Nickols (2015.11.08.1553)]

The post below is from Bill in 2008 responding to me. The first paragraph is mine; the rest is Bill’s. I think it’s germane to the ongoing discussion about behavior IS control or behavior serves to control. I do think it is fair to say that all behavior is an attempt to control. I’m also willing to say that behaving is a process of control (or, again, attempted control). But I also know full well that not all effort to control this or that variable are successful. As I say from time to time, our control is far from perfect. So I am also willing to say that behavior is an attempt to control. I’m still choking on “behavior is control.”

Fred Nickols

AVG certification.txt|attachment (162 Bytes)

···

From: Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet) [mailto:CSGNET@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU] On Behalf Of Bill Powers
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2008 11:17 AM
To: CSGNET@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU
Subject: Re: Wiki update - redefining behavior

[From Bill Powers (2008.01.03.0907 MST)]

Fred Nickols (2008.01.03.0715 MT) –

More than any other thing I think that statement gets in the way of advancing PCT. I don’t have any problem with “behavior controls perception” nor do I have any difficulty with saying “behavior serves to control perception” or even “the function of behavior is to control perception.” But, for zillions and zillions of us out here, behavior is the activity of the organism.

You could be right, since it keeps provoking arguments. However, it does get people to stop and think a bit if they’re inclined to wonder how that could be right. I thought I was clever in picking a title for BCP that could be understood either way, so the usual reader would start out thinking it meant “Behavior: how perception controls it” and then, somewhere in the book, realize that it meant just the opposite: “Behavior: how it controls perception.”

I have learned since BCP not to play tricks on the reader and to say what I mean right up front. Being too clever usually doesn’t work. So I agree with you, but I’m not going to recall BCP for a change of title.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Rick Marken (2015.11.08.2100)]

···

Fred Nickols (2015.11.08.1553)–

Â

FN: The post below is from Bill in 2008 responding to me. The first paragraph is mine; the rest is Bill’s. I think it’s germane to the ongoing discussion about behavior IS control or behavior serves to control. I do think it is fair to say that all behavior is an attempt to control. I’m also willing to say that behaving is a process of control (or, again, attempted control). But I also know full well that not all effort to control this or that variable are successful. As I say from time to time, our control is far from perfect. So I am also willing to say that behavior is an attempt to control. I’m still choking on “behavior is control.�

RM: I think you might stop choking if you try filling out some more examples of “behavior” in the “Behavior is Control” spreadsheet to see that what we are usually talking about when we refer to the “behavior” of living systems (now including that of plants) is control (maintaining controlled variables in reference states). Bill wasn’t trying to redefine control; he was analyzing the observable phenomenon that we are pointing to with word “behavior”.Â

RM: But you are right, not all the phenomena pointed to by the word “behavior” involve successful control and some don’t even involve control at all. “Throwing a curve on the inside corner” is an example of a behavior that is not very often successful control (the controlled variable is the trajectory of the ball and the reference state is “curve on the inside corner”).“Falling off a ladder” is an example of a behavior  that is not an example of control at all. The apparent “controlled variable” (falling) has an apparent reference state (on the ground). But this variable is clearly not controlled since there would be no increased effort to fall to the ground if someone prevented the fall. But I think it would be odd to call “falling off a ladder” a person’s behavior. I think we typically use “behavior” to refer to the things people do “on purpose”; that is, it refers to control.Â

RM: Now that I think of it, since “control” is just a technical word for “purposeful behavior” maybe you would choke less if I said “behavior is purposeful” rather than “behavior is control”; “purpose” just a non- technical way of referring to “control”.Â

BestÂ

Rick

Â

Fred Nickols

Â

From: Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet) [mailto:CSGNET@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU] On Behalf Of Bill Powers
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2008 11:17 AM
To: CSGNET@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU
Subject: Re: Wiki update - redefining behavior

Â

[From Bill Powers (2008.01.03.0907 MST)]

Fred Nickols (2008.01.03.0715 MT) –

More than any other thing I think that statement gets in the way of advancing PCT. I don’t have any problem with “behavior controls perception” nor do I have any difficulty with saying “behavior serves to control perception” or even "the function of behavior is to control perception." But, for zillions and zillions of us out here, behavior is the activity of the organism.

You could be right, since it keeps provoking arguments. However, it does get people to stop and think a bit if they’re inclined to wonder how that could be right. I thought I was clever in picking a title for BCP that could be understood either way, so the usual reader would start out thinking it meant “Behavior: how perception controls it” and then, somewhere in the book, realize that it meant just the opposite: “Behavior: how it controls perception.”

I have learned since BCP not to play tricks on the reader and to say what I mean right up front. Being too clever usually doesn’t work. So I agree with you, but I’m not going to recall BCP for a change of title.

Best,

Bill P.


Richard S. MarkenÂ

www.mindreadings.com
Author of  Doing Research on Purpose
Now available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

[Bruce Nevin (2015.11.12.11:17)]

Fred Nickols (2015.11.08.1553) –

Thanks for this, Fred.

Bill Powers (2008.01.03.0907 MST) –

I thought I was clever in picking a title for BCP that could be understood either way, so the usual reader would start out thinking it meant “Behavior: how perception controls it” and then, somewhere in the book, realize that it meant just the opposite: "Behavior: how it controls perception."Â

Behavior, as the overt part of a control loop, controls perception. By itself (if not part of a control loop) it controls nothing; it is without purpose. It is like the arms of a corpse on a funeral pyre contracting into a ‘pugilistic’ pose.Â

But behavior is not the only overt part of a control loop. You have to look for the other part, but when you test for it you can also directly observe a relationship between two kinds of effects on a particular perceptual variable. One is the effects of the behavior on some perceptual variable, and the other is the effects of all other influences (disturbances) on that same perceptual variable. The relationship is that the former cancel the latter.

It has been much more obvious to suppose that there is a relationship directly between a disturbance and the observed behavior, so-called stimulus and response, as perceived by the observer. Looking for the relationship between their respective effects on a perceptual variable, as perceived by the observed subject, is not as obvious, but it opens up the parts of the control loop that are not overtly observable, and without which behavior cannot control perception.

···

On Sun, Nov 8, 2015 at 3:57 PM, Fred Nickols fred@nickols.us wrote:

[From Fred Nickols (2015.11.08.1553)]

Â

The post below is from Bill in 2008 responding to me. The first paragraph is mine; the rest is Bill’s. I think it’s germane to the ongoing discussion about behavior IS control or behavior serves to control. I do think it is fair to say that all behavior is an attempt to control. I’m also willing to say that behaving is a process of control (or, again, attempted control). But I also know full well that not all effort to control this or that variable are successful. As I say from time to time, our control is far from perfect. So I am also willing to say that behavior is an attempt to control. I’m still choking on “behavior is control.�

Â

Fred Nickols

Â

From: Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet) [mailto:CSGNET@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU] On Behalf Of Bill Powers
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2008 11:17 AM
To: CSGNET@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU
Subject: Re: Wiki update - redefining behavior

Â

[From Bill Powers (2008.01.03.0907 MST)]

Fred Nickols (2008.01.03.0715 MT) –

More than any other thing I think that statement gets in the way of advancing PCT. I don’t have any problem with “behavior controls perception” nor do I have any difficulty with saying “behavior serves to control perception” or even "the function of behavior is to control perception." But, for zillions and zillions of us out here, behavior is the activity of the organism.

You could be right, since it keeps provoking arguments. However, it does get people to stop and think a bit if they’re inclined to wonder how that could be right. I thought I was clever in picking a title for BCP that could be understood either way, so the usual reader would start out thinking it meant “Behavior: how perception controls it” and then, somewhere in the book, realize that it meant just the opposite: “Behavior: how it controls perception.”

I have learned since BCP not to play tricks on the reader and to say what I mean right up front. Being too clever usually doesn’t work. So I agree with you, but I’m not going to recall BCP for a change of title.

Best,

Bill P.

[Tracy Harms 2015.11.12.12.33 EST]

In reply to [Bruce Nevin (2015.11.12.11:17)]

If I understand this discussion, the main idea here is the one Fred
articulated years ago (as quoted in this thread):

FN 2008 > But, for zillions and zillions of us out here, behavior is
the activity of the organism.

I think I see how this fits with the way you open your reply:

BN > Behavior, as the overt part of a control loop, controls
perception. By itself
BN > (if not part of a control loop) it controls nothing;

Equating behavior with the overt part of a control loop is at least
roughly the same as saying behavior is the {observable) activity of
the organism. This presumably helps people who, like Fred, take
behavior in this sense. I've even come to understand that Bill Powers
chose the word because he, too, was interested in this sense of it.
Yet I find myself quite frustrated by this segregation of "behavior"
from the whole-system perspective that PCT led me to adopt.

When behavior is referred to in application of PCT, the entirety of
one or more control systems are involved. It is all of the systemic
components, together in place, together in time, together in
interaction, that constitute "behavior" as we construe it. Moreover,
all of this is physical, and in its physical particulars it is
amenable to empirical observation (while recognizing the practical
limitations of actually probing such systems.)

So it is that when I hear somebody distinguish behavior from the
dynamics of a complete active control loop, I must mentally adjust to
a meaning of "behavior" that is sharply different from the meaning as
I know it from PCT. I do know that the world is mostly populated by
people for whom the word has a different (vague? rough? loose?)
meaning. I don't know how to discuss behavior among students of PCT as
something other than what occurs in complete, active control systems.
The proposition that I should consider "behavior ... by itself [i.e.]
not part of a control loop" fails for me. I don't know how to think of
behavior as part of a control loop. I don't know how to think of
behavior as something that might or might not be part of a control
loop. Neither of these propositions is coherent in my mind.

Perhaps I could learn to have a sense of intellectual coherence using
this word in that way. My recollection is that "behavior" had that
sort of meaning for me before PCT came to my attention. PCT changed my
mind, and I'm not seeing any appeal in changing it back.

I do like relying on the word "intention" to bolster the insight. I
think it helps free us from the problems of ambiguity when "control"
suggests "successful control," as it often (unfortunately) does.

My preference would be for students of PCT to strive to use "behavior"
to denote the entire systemic action. This, in my personal practice,
is what it has meant to take to heart that behavior is control of
perception. This involves avoiding talking about behavior as a synonym
for output, result, effect, impact, influence, motion, or any other
tempting portion of what may be going on. If we can't do this among
ourselves, we'll be less credible when we're asking others to
understand behavior as PCT explains it.

···

--
Tracy

[From Fred Nickols (2015.11.12.1340)]

Shown below is a formal view of PCT. To me it clearly distinguishes between the entire control loop and behavior, with I generally think of as behavior being essentially the output function. By way of the feedback function the effects of our behavior make themselves felt on the controlled variable (we think because all we know of that we know via our perceptions). Presumably our behavior involves comparing our perceptual signals with our reference signals, with any resultant error producing output (behavior). So do our actions/behaviors involve the entire loop? I think so, including compensating for the effects of any disturbances whether we are aware of them or not. Is perceiving a form of behavior? I think so. Is comparing perceptual and reference signals a form of behavior? I think so. Are our output quantities various forms of behavior? I think so. Does behavior serve to control our perceptions? I think so. Is behavior the control of perception? I don’t think so. I think behavior is the activity of the organism, its output quantities and some not so observable covert activities. Is breathing behavior? I think so. Is my heart beating a behavior? I think so. Is seeing a form of behavior? I think so.

If the loop below is disrupted, I still think the person could behave, that is, engage in activity, but I don’t think the person could control his or her perceptions. The entire loop is what makes purposeful behavior possible but I don’t see the loop itself as behavior.

Fred Nickols

image00195.jpg

···

-----Original Message-----

From: Tracy Harms [mailto:kaleidic@gmail.com]

Sent: Thursday, November 12, 2015 12:39 PM

To: csgnet@lists.illinois.edu

Subject: Re: FW: Wiki update - redefining behavior

[Tracy Harms 2015.11.12.12.33 EST]

In reply to [Bruce Nevin (2015.11.12.11:17)]

If I understand this discussion, the main idea here is the one Fred articulated

years ago (as quoted in this thread):

FN 2008 > But, for zillions and zillions of us out here, behavior is the activity of

the organism.

I think I see how this fits with the way you open your reply:

BN > Behavior, as the overt part of a control loop, controls perception. By

itself BN > (if not part of a control loop) it controls nothing;

Equating behavior with the overt part of a control loop is at least roughly the

same as saying behavior is the {observable) activity of the organism. This

presumably helps people who, like Fred, take behavior in this sense. I’ve

even come to understand that Bill Powers chose the word because he, too,

was interested in this sense of it.

Yet I find myself quite frustrated by this segregation of “behavior”

from the whole-system perspective that PCT led me to adopt.

When behavior is referred to in application of PCT, the entirety of one or

more control systems are involved. It is all of the systemic components,

together in place, together in time, together in interaction, that constitute

“behavior” as we construe it. Moreover, all of this is physical, and in its

physical particulars it is amenable to empirical observation (while recognizing

the practical limitations of actually probing such systems.)

So it is that when I hear somebody distinguish behavior from the dynamics of

a complete active control loop, I must mentally adjust to a meaning of

“behavior” that is sharply different from the meaning as I know it from PCT. I

do know that the world is mostly populated by people for whom the word

has a different (vague? rough? loose?) meaning. I don’t know how to discuss

behavior among students of PCT as something other than what occurs in

complete, active control systems.

The proposition that I should consider "behavior … by itself [i.e.] not part of a

control loop" fails for me. I don’t know how to think of behavior as part of a

control loop. I don’t know how to think of behavior as something that might

or might not be part of a control loop. Neither of these propositions is

coherent in my mind.

Perhaps I could learn to have a sense of intellectual coherence using this

word in that way. My recollection is that “behavior” had that sort of meaning

for me before PCT came to my attention. PCT changed my mind, and I’m not

seeing any appeal in changing it back.

I do like relying on the word “intention” to bolster the insight. I think it helps

free us from the problems of ambiguity when “control”

suggests “successful control,” as it often (unfortunately) does.

My preference would be for students of PCT to strive to use “behavior”

to denote the entire systemic action. This, in my personal practice, is what it

has meant to take to heart that behavior is control of perception. This

involves avoiding talking about behavior as a synonym for output, result,

effect, impact, influence, motion, or any other tempting portion of what may

be going on. If we can’t do this among ourselves, we’ll be less credible when

we’re asking others to understand behavior as PCT explains it.

Tracy

[From Rick Marken (2015.11.12.1350)]

···

Bruce Nevin (2015.11.12.11:17)

BN: Behavior, as the overt part of a control loop, controls perception.

RM: Right. That’s the theory. But you still haven’t said what behavior is. What is the phenomenon that is being explained? I say that behavior is control: Controlled variable, Reference state, and Means. That’s what we can see. We can’t see a control loop and we can’t see perception. Those are part of the explanation of the phenomenon that we see before our eyes: the phenomenon of control.

RM: If you want to reserve the word “behavior” to refer to only the means by which a perception is controlled then you are leaving out the aspect of behavior that is the main reason for turning to control theory for an explanation: the reference state of a controlled variable. By restricting “behavior” to mean the “means” or “overt part of a control loop” that controls perception you are ignoring what is most important about behavior: Â it’s purpose. This is exactly what the behaviorists did and it’s what got them off the track. Behaviorists saw the behavior of a rat in a Skinner box, for example, as the bar presses; they ignored the controlled result of these actions: the occurrence of food pellets at a fairly constant rate, even in the face of disturbances like changes in the “reinforcement schedule”. Even the bar press itself is a controlled variable; it’s a controlled results and an action at the same time.Â

RM: So the only thing Bill could possibly have meant when he talks about “behavior” is what he describes in Table 1, p. 172 of LCS 1: Behavior is Variables kept in Reference States by Means of the appropriate actions. That is a completely objective, non-theoretical description of the phenomenon that we call “behavior”; it is a description of the phenomenon of purposeful behavior. PCT is the theory that explains that phenomenon.

BestÂ

Rick

Â

By itself (if not part of a control loop) it controls nothing; it is without purpose. It is like the arms of a corpse on a funeral pyre contracting into a ‘pugilistic’ pose.Â

But behavior is not the only overt part of a control loop. You have to look for the other part, but when you test for it you can also directly observe a relationship between two kinds of effects on a particular perceptual variable. One is the effects of the behavior on some perceptual variable, and the other is the effects of all other influences (disturbances) on that same perceptual variable. The relationship is that the former cancel the latter.

It has been much more obvious to suppose that there is a relationship directly between a disturbance and the observed behavior, so-called stimulus and response, as perceived by the observer. Looking for the relationship between their respective effects on a perceptual variable, as perceived by the observed subject, is not as obvious, but it opens up the parts of the control loop that are not overtly observable, and without which behavior cannot control perception.


Richard S. MarkenÂ

www.mindreadings.com
Author of  Doing Research on Purpose
Now available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

On Sun, Nov 8, 2015 at 3:57 PM, Fred Nickols fred@nickols.us wrote:

[From Fred Nickols (2015.11.08.1553)]

Â

The post below is from Bill in 2008 responding to me. The first paragraph is mine; the rest is Bill’s. I think it’s germane to the ongoing discussion about behavior IS control or behavior serves to control. I do think it is fair to say that all behavior is an attempt to control. I’m also willing to say that behaving is a process of control (or, again, attempted control). But I also know full well that not all effort to control this or that variable are successful. As I say from time to time, our control is far from perfect. So I am also willing to say that behavior is an attempt to control. I’m still choking on “behavior is control.�

Â

Fred Nickols

Â

From: Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet) [mailto:CSGNET@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU] On Behalf Of Bill Powers
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2008 11:17 AM
To: CSGNET@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU
Subject: Re: Wiki update - redefining behavior

Â

[From Bill Powers (2008.01.03.0907 MST)]

Fred Nickols (2008.01.03.0715 MT) –

More than any other thing I think that statement gets in the way of advancing PCT. I don’t have any problem with “behavior controls perception” nor do I have any difficulty with saying “behavior serves to control perception” or even "the function of behavior is to control perception." But, for zillions and zillions of us out here, behavior is the activity of the organism.

You could be right, since it keeps provoking arguments. However, it does get people to stop and think a bit if they’re inclined to wonder how that could be right. I thought I was clever in picking a title for BCP that could be understood either way, so the usual reader would start out thinking it meant “Behavior: how perception controls it” and then, somewhere in the book, realize that it meant just the opposite: “Behavior: how it controls perception.”

I have learned since BCP not to play tricks on the reader and to say what I mean right up front. Being too clever usually doesn’t work. So I agree with you, but I’m not going to recall BCP for a change of title.

Best,

Bill P.