[From Rick Marken (2016.08.29.1020)]
On Sat, Aug 27, 2016 at 2:26 PM, Alex Gomez-Marin email@example.com wrote:
AGM: honestly, this whole csgnet thing looks more an entertainment for you than a serious attempt to continue to push pct forward.
RM: I’m sorry you feel that way. I do find discussions on CSGNet entertaining but I don’t think that makes them any less serious. And I am certainly trying to push PCT forward. But I can understand why you think I am not doing that.
RM: To you (and apparently everyone else involved in this discussion, with the notable exception of Henry Yin) pushing PCT forward would mean showing how PCT explains the relationship between curvature and velocity that is observed when organisms produce voluntary movement. I would imagine that you expect PCT to explain why (to frame it in neurological terns) the efferent neural impulses that drive the motor outputs that produce voluntary movement produce movement whose speed is a power function of the curvature through which the movement is taking place.
RM: Instead, what you see is me using PCT to show that the observed relationship between curvature and speed in curved movement production is a statistical artifact; a behavioral illusion. Not only might it seem like I am not pushing PCT forward by avoiding the kind of PCT explanation you expect; it might also seem like I am insulting the people who are studying the speed-curvature relationship – the “power law” – by implying that they are too stupid to see that it’s a statistical artifact. And given your response (and that of my PCT “allies”) to my analysis I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the way you feel about it.
RM: But I assure you that I am trying to push PCT forward and I don’t mean to insult anyone’s intelligence. I think the people studying the power law are very smart and very good scientists. Their only problem (as well as that of my “allies”) is that they want a PCT explanation of a phenomenon that PCT doesn’t explain. The power law researchers see the power law as a “generated output” phenomenon. That’s why the power law is taken as evidence of a biological constraint; it is seen as reflecting a constraint on how neural impulses are transformed into movement. But PCT is not an explanation of how outputs are generated or how this generation is “constrained”.
RM: PCT is an explanation of control. PCT starts with the recognition that what we call “behavior” is a process of control. That’s an objective fact, not a theory. PCT explains this fact – The fact of control (per the subtitle of LCS III). Control is a fact that power law researchers and all other non-PCT behavioral scientists don’t recognize and/or don’t understand. This creates a problem that has really been at the heart of the neglect (or outright rejection) of PCT by conventional behavioral scientists. Many of these scientists like the theory of PCT qua theory but they want to use the theory as an explanation of phenomena to which it doesn’t apply – that are actually illusory. And when this is pointed out, it makes these people very mad.
RM: I think you might get a better idea of where I’m coming from if you would read the paper that had the most influence on my own engagement with PCT as a scientific researcher. That Bill’s 1978 Psych Review paper “Quantitative Analysis of Purposive Systems”, which is reprinted starting on p. 129 of LCS I. This paper explains why studying control systems as though they were input-output (or output generating) devices will produce misleading results, an example of which is the “behavioral illusion”. This paper was the “shot over the bow” of the ship of conventional psychology; this is clear from it’s not so subtle subtitle: “Some spadework at the foundations of scientific psychology”. This the paper in which we find the following quote:
BP: “The nightmare of any experimenter is to realize too late that his
results were forced by his experimental design and do not actually pertain to
behavior. This nightmare has a good chance of becoming a reality for a number
of behavioral scientists”.
RM: I think this paper explains why I analyzed the power law the way I did and why you (and my PCT “allies”) have responded so strongly against it. The only way to appreciate my analysis is to have taken the pre-theoretical step of understanding that the purposeful behavior of organisms is a control process; a process of acting to keep variable aspects of the world – controlled variables – in pre-selected states, protected from disturbance. Henry Yin has taken this step, which is why he was able to write the following in his comment about my analysis of the power law:
HY: I believe Bill’s major contribution to science is his elucidation of the behavioral illusion, and this is another good example of it.
RM: I agree. And the only way Bill was able to make this contribution was to first recognize that behavior is a process of control and that a control system analysis of control shows that disturbances to controlled variables will appear to cause responses, when they actually don’t, a fact that Bill referred to as the “behavioral illusion”. Since conventional scientific psychology is based on the idea that stimuli (independent variables) cause responses (dependent variable) the behavioral illusion takes a huge spadeful out from under the foundations of scientific psychology.
RM: I’m afraid this illusion is at the heart of the power law observation. The power law views curvature as an independent variable that affects velocity, the dependent variable. But when behavior is seen as control the movement itself is seen as a controlled variable. In this case, as Henry pointed out, curvature can’t be an independent variable since it is dependent on how the movement is produced, as is the velocity of the movement. So what we are seeing in the power law is a relationship between two dependent variables; two variable aspects of a controlled variable. The value of both of these variables depends, not only each other, but on the outputs that produced the movement. It is this understanding that is the basis of my analysis of the power law.
AGM: i wanted to engage again but i’ll let it pass; there is just too much ego-noise for me to spend my time and energy.
RM: Again. I understand how you feel. I knew I risked upsetting you by posting my analysis of the power law. But I thought that as a young researcher you might find it kind of interesting and, possibly even exciting (the way I, as a relatively new PhD researcher, found the analysis in Bill’s Psych Review article). But that was back in the sixties; these are obviously very different times.
RM: But I wish you all the best.
Richard S. Marken
“The childhood of the human race is far from over. We
have a long way to go before most people will understand that what they do for
others is just as important to their well-being as what they do for
themselves.” – William T. Powers