Getting It

Hmm. I think I'm getting it [PCT]...

If I come to attention and raise my arm in a salute, what is "going on" is
as follows...

        I intend to render a salute.

        I know what a salute looks like (and feels like), which is to say,
        I can tell if I'm saluting or not.

        My limbs and posture are adjusted until I give the appearance of
saluting (to me and to interested others).

What is NOT going on are some of the following...

        I am NOT invoking a saluting program that then executes a saluting
        routine.

        I am NOT saluting because my saluting behavior has been developed and
        maintained via operant conditioning (although it is very tempting to
        argue that achieving congruence between a reference signal and a
        controlled perception is very reinforcing).

        I am NOT actually controlling my saluting behavior per se; instead,
        I am, through my behavior, controlling what I perceive to be the
position of my body and limbs. "Saluting" is a label given to the
        perceived pattern of changes in body position that can have a wide
variety of starting positions but ends in a rather narrowly defined
position.

To "beat a dead horse" as it were, when I say that I "raise my arm," the
verb-object structure of that utterance implies the behavior of raising. As
with "saluting," "raising" is a label, a shorthand way of describing a
pattern of perceived changes in conditions.

Whatever is going on in my muscles, joints, tendons, etc., eludes me and my
conscious control of it; however, whatever controls them is in turn subject
to my control of my perceptions (sounds like a hierarchy of control systems
to me). I can indeed intend to raise my arm, and I can accomplish that end.
But, however convenient it might be to say that I am raising my arm, it is
probably more precise to say that I am bringing my perception of my arm's
position into alignment with an intended position.

I itch; I scratch (therefore I control :-). These, too, are convenient ways
of referring to a disturbed reference condition in the first instance, and a
perception of restoring it in the second. My scratching behavior varies
widely (especially in public). On occasion it varies in novel ways (even in
public). Operant conditioning cannot account for novel displays of
behavior; only for their subsequent sustainment by way of reinforcement, or
to claim that the behavioral components of the novel pattern have been
previously reinforced. This latter argument begs the issue of "configuring
behavior." Few behaviorists would be willing to lay claim to that because
doing so takes them into the realm of mental behavior--territory where
behaviorists are loathe to go.

Behavior, then, is the means to many ends. All ends may be defined in terms
of controlled perceptions. Behavior, therefore, is the control of perception.

But what about behavior? What about the activity of the organism? How is
it controlled? What controls it? My answer is that to focus on the control
of behavior is to "lose sight of the bubble" as they used to say on submarines.
It is not behavior that we seek to control, but, rather, its effects--those
changes in conditions that we attribute to behavior. Control the means, or
so we think, and we control the ends. We infer a cause-effect relationship
and through attempts to control what we believe to be the cause, we try to
control the effects.

We seek to control ends, not means. To focus on control of means is to lose
sight of the ends. If we know anything at all, we know to "begin with the
end in mind" and to "keep the end firmly in view."

Critique please...

Regards,

Fred Nickols
Senior Consultant
The Distance Consulting Company
nickols@worldnet.att.net

[From Rick Marken (971006.1440)]

Fred Nickols (971006)

If I come to attention and raise my arm in a salute, what is "going
on" is as follows...

        I intend to render a salute.

You intend to perceive proprioceptive, visual and tactile perceptual
variables in a state which you call "a salute".

        My limbs and posture are adjusted until I give the
appearance of saluting (to me and to interested others).

You are not really controlling what the others see; that is not
your intentional "doing"; all you control are the perceptual variables
that constitute "salute" to you. Apparently, when you control these
variables a side effect of doing this is the appearnce (to others)
that you are saluting. If you were not giving this appreance you
would have perceived others mentioning this to you.

Operant conditioning cannot account for novel displays of
behavior;

Operant conditioning refers to a phenomenon (control of food input) and
a theory (conditioning of S-R associatios through reinforcement). I
think it's safe to say that we have no idea what operant conditioning
theory can account for since they have no model. But if you listen
to the operant conditioners tell it, their theory explain everything
and any implementation of their theory that doesn't explain something
is a straw man;-)

Behavior, then, is the means to many ends.

In common use, the term "behavior" refers to _both_ means
(moving an arm) and ends (hitting the ball with the racquet).

All ends may be defined in terms of controlled perceptions.

Only intentionally produced ends correspond to controlled perceptions.

Behavior, therefore, is the control of perception.

Actually, only purposeful (or intentional) behavior is the control
of perception.

But what about behavior? What about the activity of the organism?
How is it controlled? What controls it?

If by "behavior" you mean intentionally produced ends then it's the
organism's hierarchy of control systems that control these behaviors.
PCT explains how it does it. If by "behavior" you mean the means used
to produce intended ends or accidental side effects of the production
of those ends then they are not controlled.

It is not behavior that we seek to control, but, rather, its
effects--those changes in conditions that we attribute to behavior.

What do you mean by "behavior" here? Who is seeking to
control it?

Control the means, or so we think, and we control the ends. We
infer a cause-effect relationship and through attempts to control
what we believe to be the cause, we try to control the effects.

Are you saying that people who try to control behavior are only
trying to control the means people use to produce intended results?
If so, I can think of many examples where people try to control
which results people intend to produce. For example, a kid who
regularly beats up other kids probably (this can be tested) intends
to produce this result (the beatings). I think teachers and others
try to control, not the means the kid uses to administer the
beatings, but the beatings (ends) themselves; they would like
the kid to intend to do something other than giving beatings.

We seek to control ends, not means.

We (as controllers) can _only_ control (perceived) ends.

To focus on control of means is to lose sight of the ends.

To think that means are controlled is to not understand the nature
of control.

Critique please...

I'm not sure I knew what to critique. But there it is.

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Fred Nickols (971008.0223 ET)]

Rick Marken (971006.1440)

Fred Nickols (971006)

Fred:

If I come to attention and raise my arm in a salute, what is "going
on" is as follows...

        I intend to render a salute.

Rick:

You intend to perceive proprioceptive, visual and tactile perceptual
variables in a state which you call "a salute".

Your statement is much more precise than mine.

Fred:

        My limbs and posture are adjusted until I give the
appearance of saluting (to me and to interested others).

Rick:

You are not really controlling what the others see; that is not
your intentional "doing"; all you control are the perceptual variables
that constitute "salute" to you. Apparently, when you control these
variables a side effect of doing this is the appearnce (to others)
that you are saluting. If you were not giving this appreance you
would have perceived others mentioning this to you.

Hmm. Why would you label the appearance I present to others as a "side
effect" of what I was doing? If my intent is to present that appearance to
them (as it usually was), then satisfying their criteria for an acceptable
salute seems a main effect, not a side effect. Granted, I can't know if my
appearance of saluting satisfies their requirements for a salute unless they
tell me, but that doesn't make their perceptions of my saluting behavior a
"side effect." To be precise, I didn't say I was controlling what others
see. I said I was giving the appearance of saluting. That appearance is, as
you say, defined by my perceptions, not theirs (although the reference
states for my perceptions are based on what others have at one time said to
me about my saluting behavior and position, especially my company commander
in boot camp). In any event, I think I get your point above about
controlling my perception of my salute, and not controlling their perception
of it, and I agree with you.

Fred:

Operant conditioning cannot account for novel displays of
behavior;

Rick:

Operant conditioning refers to a phenomenon (control of food input) and
a theory (conditioning of S-R associatios through reinforcement). I
think it's safe to say that we have no idea what operant conditioning
theory can account for since they have no model.

What do you mean by "model" when you say "they have no model"?

Rick:

But if you listen
to the operant conditioners tell it, their theory explain everything
and any implementation of their theory that doesn't explain something
is a straw man;-)

I know some radical behaviorists who fit your description; I know some
others who don't.

Fred:

Behavior, then, is the means to many ends.

Rick:

In common use, the term "behavior" refers to _both_ means
(moving an arm) and ends (hitting the ball with the racquet).

Yes, I know. Tom Gilbert, of human performance technology fame, used to use
an example involving the aiming and firing of a rifle, a bullet piercing a
body, and various environmental conditions to draw distinctions among
murder, self-defense, and combat. I suppose that's why the use of
"behavior" leads so readily to so much misunderstanding. That is also why
Gilbert, and others, drew a distinction between "behavior" (moving an arm)
and "accomplishment" (hitting the ball with the racquet). In any case, my
statement that behavior is the means to many ends still stands.

Fred:

All ends may be defined in terms of controlled perceptions.

Rick:

Only intentionally produced ends correspond to controlled perceptions.

Okey-dokey. Reworded, the sentence reads, "All intended ends may be defined
in terms of controlled perceptions."

Fred:

Behavior, therefore, is the control of perception.

Rick:

Actually, only purposeful (or intentional) behavior is the control
of perception.

Noted...

Fred:

But what about behavior? What about the activity of the organism?
How is it controlled? What controls it?

Rick:

If by "behavior" you mean intentionally produced ends then it's the
organism's hierarchy of control systems that control these behaviors.
PCT explains how it does it.

I'll pass on the remark above until I can find my copy of B:CP and do as
Bill suggested, reread it and bring my recollections current. Until then,
it strikes me that there's a point in this hierarchy of control systems
where conscious intention ceases playing an active role.

Rick:

If by "behavior" you mean the means used
to produce intended ends or accidental side effects of the production
of those ends then they are not controlled.

Sorry, but I cannot decode the sentence above; I don't know what it means.

Fred:

It is not behavior that we seek to control, but, rather, its
effects--those changes in conditions that we attribute to behavior.

Rick:

What do you mean by "behavior" here? Who is seeking to
control it?

By "behavior" I mean the activity of the individual, especially the movement
of limbs and uttering of sounds we ordinarily label "skills" and
"communicating." Job-related or working behaviors are those I had most in
mind. As for who's seeking to control it, I had in mind management.

Fred:

Control the means, or so we think, and we control the ends. We
infer a cause-effect relationship and through attempts to control
what we believe to be the cause, we try to control the effects.

Rick:

Are you saying that people who try to control behavior are only
trying to control the means people use to produce intended results?

Not exactly. What I was driving at is that much of management practice
focuses on controlling work behaviors. We try to teach people how to
produce widgets, for example, but all too often focus on what we think
are widget-producing behaviors and fail to teach people how to tell if
they've produced a good widget or not. Consequently, the widgets they
produce are full of flaws.

Rick:

If so, I can think of many examples where people try to control
which results people intend to produce. For example, a kid who
regularly beats up other kids probably (this can be tested) intends
to produce this result (the beatings). I think teachers and others
try to control, not the means the kid uses to administer the
beatings, but the beatings (ends) themselves; they would like
the kid to intend to do something other than giving beatings.

The beatings might not be the intended result at all, just another
means in a long string of means-ends relationships. I'm familiar
with schoolyard bullies and other brutes. The beatings they administer
serve, or so I think, to maintain their image of themselves as strong,
unquestioned rulers of their domains. Schoolmasters have been known to
let these beasts run more or less unfettered, perhaps as a way of
demonstrating that they, the schoolmasters, really rule the shoolyard.
As for testing these propositions, I'd be inclined to pass on that, too,
unless a harmless way of testing them could be devised.

Fred:

We seek to control ends, not means.

Rick:

We (as controllers) can _only_ control (perceived) ends.

Hmm. As I look at what I wrote immediately above, I'll retract it. It's
a foolish, empty statement. That said, if ends and means are relative
constructs, then a given phenomenon could be an end from one perspective,
and a means from another. That would suggest that your response is open
to question. It might also imply a need to rethink the concepts of means
and ends.

Fred:

To focus on control of means is to lose sight of the ends.

Rick:

To think that means are controlled is to not understand the nature
of control.

See the comments above about the relative nature of means and ends. In
the meantime, my assertion stands. Your comment, however, does give me
a new version of it: "To focus on control of means is to risk losing
control of ends."

Fred:

Critique please...

Rick:

I'm not sure I knew what to critique. But there it is.

You done good; thanks...[:slight_smile:
Regards,

Fred Nickols
Senior Consultant
The Distance Consulting Company
nickols@worldnet.att.net

[From Bill Powers (971008.0705 MDT)]

Fred Nichols (971007) --

Hmm. I think I'm getting it [PCT]...

Looks that way.

I scratch (therefore I control :-).

Precisely, Dr. Denichols.

These, too, are convenient ways
of referring to a disturbed reference condition in the first instance, and a
perception of restoring it in the second.

Easier to say "disturbed perception,"isn't it? The perception is disturbed,
you act to restore it to the preferred state (no itch).

But what about behavior? What about the activity of the organism? How is
it controlled? What controls it? My answer is that to focus on the control
of behavior is to "lose sight of the bubble" as they used to say on
submarines.

Heinz von Foerster used to say "Don't look at my finger, look where I'm
pointing."

It is not behavior that we seek to control, but, rather, its effects--those
changes in conditions that we attribute to behavior. Control the means, or
so we think, and we control the ends. We infer a cause-effect relationship
and through attempts to control what we believe to be the cause, we try to
control the effects.

When you're talking about a single control system, you _vary_ the means to
achieve the end -- you vary the steering wheel angle to keep the car on the
road. Note that you don't have any fixed reference level for the steering
wheel angle.

If you're talking hierarchically, then you control one perception as a
means of controlling another. Now you're explicitly recognizing that there
is a reference level for the means, too -- a variable reference level. If
something disturbs the means (a child starts tugging on the steering
wheel), there will be immediate resistance to the _unintended_ variation in
the means of steering. Think of a power steering unit. It will autonomously
resist road forces that would tend to cock the wheels, yet when you turn
the steering wheel the power steering unit will actively make the wheels
cock to match the changed reference signal put in by the steering wheel.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Rick Marken (971010.1000)]

Fred Nickols (971008.0223 ET)--

Why would you label the appearance I present to others as a "side
effect" of what I was doing?

Becuase you can't really control it because you can't perceive it.
What you can perceive is the way people react to you. When Fred
Astaire danced he controlled his own perceptions of movement,
sequence, event, program, etc _from his own point of view_. He had
a damn good idea of the kind of side effects his control of his own
perceptions would have; he knew (could imagine accurately) what he
looked like to others but he couldn't perceive (and control) the way
he appeared to others _while he was dancing_; but he could see the
film clips so he _could_ control what he looked like in those clips.
And, as we all know, he produced one hell of an amazing set of
side effects;-)

If my intent is to present that appearance to them (as it usually
was), then satisfying their criteria for an acceptable salute seems
a main effect, not a side effect.

I agree that we often intend to present certain appearances to others;
but we can't really control those appearances because we can't perceive
them; I think what we are usually controlling is the way people react
to the (unperceived) appearance we are intending to present.
Controlling an appearance is another example of PCT type model based
control; the appearance we intend to give to others is not a
perception we can have but an imagined perception -- a model of
what we think (hope) is happening. The only perception we usually
have that is controllable is people's response to the appearance we
are giving (how loud the applause is;-))

Granted, I can't know if my appearance of saluting satisfies
their requirements for a salute unless they tell me, but that
doesn't make their perceptions of my saluting behavior a
"side effect."

Their perceptions are not a "side effect" of your behavior. They
are perceiving a side-effect of your efforts to control
your _own_ perceptions of tension in your wrist, angle of your
arm, etc.

Me:

we have no idea what operant conditioning theory can account for
since they have no model.

Fred:

What do you mean by "model" when you say "they have no model"?

A working model, based on a set of assumptions about internal
mechanisms, that generates behavior that matches the behavior
of the organism under study.

it strikes me that there's a point in this hierarchy of control
systems where conscious intention ceases playing an active role.

I think consciousness moves up and down the hierarchy "at will",
going to the places where error is currently largest. If you
cut your finger consciousness moves down to the intensity/sensation
level (pain). If you are having problems at work consciousness
moves up to levels having to do with relationships, rules and values.

Me:

If by "behavior" you mean the means used to produce intended
ends or accidental side effects of the production of those ends
then they are not controlled.

Fred:

Sorry, but I cannot decode the sentence above; I don't know what
it means.

Neither can I;-) Bill addressed it in his reply to you, though.
Basically, the point is that control involves means and ends;
ends are controlled using variable means; there is a hierarchical
relationship between means and ends; the means used to control a
particular end are themselves controlled by other means. I
control for getting to work (end) by varying my route (means)
as necessary to compensate for disturbances like construction and
traffic; I control my route to work (end) by varying my
steering wheel position (means); etc. All of this controlling has
many side-effects (like the distance from my car to the HOLLYWOOD
sign) that are completely uncontrolled.

What I was driving at is that much of management practice
focuses on controlling work behaviors. We try to teach people how to
produce widgets, for example, but all too often focus on what we think
are widget-producing behaviors and fail to teach people how to tell if
they've produced a good widget or not. Consequently, the widgets they
produce are full of flaws.

Good drive!!

if ends and means are relative constructs, then a given phenomenon
could be an end from one perspective

Yes! That's true. And there is no problem with this. In the tracking
task, for example, variations in the position of the mouse are the
_means_ used to control cursor position (the end). But these variations
can also be shown to be under control themselves; if you try to
disturb mouse position (by pushing on the mouse) during a tracking
task, your pushes will be resisted; the subject tries to keep the
mouse in the intended position. This is how my hierarchical control
spreadsheet works; the means use to achieve level 3 goals are
themselves references (goals) for the level 2 systems which act to
produce perceptions matching those goals by varying their actual
effects on the environment. Now that I think about it, I realize that
in a hierarchical control model, only the lowest level outputs
(means) -- the ones that actually affect the environment -- are
really uncontrolled.

Best

Rick

···

----------
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[Fred Nickols (971019.1045 EDT)]

Bill Powers (971018.1017 MDT)

Fred (971018) --

Two things have come together for me recently. One is the PCT-based model
I'll be using to illustrate issues related to human behavior and
performance; the other is an example. Both should be of interest to this

list.

Bill (971018.1017 MDT):

Both are. The diagram is a nice simplification, and the example shows how
mysteries can be cleared up with PCT. By George, I think he's got it.

Bingo! And with pinpoint accuracy, too. I've been waiting for precisely
the words used above ("By George, I think he's got it."). Now what? :slight_smile:

I've also been working up a set of diagnostics that people could use to
diagnose performance problems in the workplace using a PCT perspective vs
the external control models that now dominate. Soon as I think they're
worth passing along, I'll do so.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
The Distance Consulting Company
nickols@worldnet.att.net