Happy new year to all

[From Dick Robertson] (930101.1600) Greetings, and misc. themes: 1) What
are the solid facts in psychology? 2) On spreading HPCT, more thougts 3)
the relation between (1) and (2).

Happy New Year and belated seasons greetings to all! My machine was off
for a while getting upgraded, and as usual there was a host of great
thoughts to overwhelm me when I got back. But I would like to go back to a
theme that came up way last summer after the CSG conference. That was the
topic of what are the solid facts in psychology at this point in history?
I thought that was a very promising topic and I hated to see it die out
after a few posts, but I haven't been able to do much about it myself with
the heavy teaching load this last term. So, I'd like to revive it, if
anyone else is also interested.

I think psychology started off with some solid facts in psycho-physics,
like the measures of reaction times. Not terribly interesting in
themselves maybe, but look what happened when somebody long ago started
compiling norms for things like body temperature and blood pressure.
Eventually, individual readings relative to the norms became a valuable
diagnostic of state of health. This idea has so far only been pushed to a
very limited extent in the field neuropsychological functioning - as in the
Halstead-Reitan tests.

Then there are the facts about rote memory that Ebbinghaus developed 150
years ago. I have tested out his conclusion that 4/5 time on recitation
and 1/5 on intake is the most efficient way to achieve all kinds of rote
learning. But, I find a real sense of strain in using that method as
compared with the less efficient lazy-man's method of 3 to 4 fifths on
intake. And I got similar reports from students that I could get to
experiment with it. I think that there are other interesting, and often
practical, facts strewn around through the research that has come down
since then.

Then there is the fact of behavior as the control of perception. This is
on a higher level of abstraction and doesn't immediately produce a
practical application like the Ebbinghaus data, or does it? There have
been a number of solid results from the experiments with modelling, such as
Tom Bourbon's finding of the stability of individual performances over time
in his task (I always forget how you name it, Tom). And various other
facts. I wish that I or someone had had the time to gather up all the
soldid facts about behavior that we have, whether or not they come from PCT
work, just to see whether they can be arranged in any kind of taxonomy and
(possibly) related to Bill's proposed hierarchy of types of perceptual
variables. As Bill has been suggesting lately, applying "the test" to a
supposed behavioral fact has several potentially values. We can find out
whether the surface or common sense phenomenon is the real controlled
condition, as, for example, all of the "findings" about operant condition-
ing - where the real phenomenon is not the surface variables like amount of
reinforcement, type of schedule, etc., but is the control of the animal's
state of nourishment - which is not a surface variable.

Anyway, would anyone else care to offer your candidates for "solid
behavioral facts?" I would be willing to start collecting them in one
separate file and post it from time to time so we can see what it looks

2) Peridically we have another burst of discussion about how to spread the
word, especially after each new rejection, and I've been saving up my 2
cents worth, which I offer herewith. One of my courses this last term was
on History of Psychology in which I was reminded that Freud had many
publications rejected before he published the Interp. of Dreams. And it
was really the general public, not the profession, who then became
interested. That led to another recollection - that Bill Powers once
remarked that Aldine de Gruyter had asked him about a sequel to BCP (Do I
recall that rightly, Bill?). If so, is this the time for that, and are you
working on it?

It seems to me that we have understood why the "established authorities"
couldn't possibly (cut their own throats to) relax the censorship of PCT
publications until we have worn the subject out. And one or another has
over and over come to the same conclusion: Let's just keep expanding the
field and sharing the findings with the small (but growing!) number who
find their own way to PCT. But that isn't all. Ed and now Dag have
succeeded in reaching the "public," and that brings me to a third topic,
how the public picks up new ideas.

3) The general public is not interested in theories, they just want the
facts, right? The most palatable facts are those, I believe, that mirror
commonsense views in the garb of science. Like: reinforced operants tend
to performed increasingly. Commonsense knew that already in the form of
"You get more flies with honey than with vinegar" (or many other variants)
but putting it in (pseudo-)scientific garb and then translating it back
into concrete examples like: "Find out what your child values and only give
that to him if he behaves as you want him to" has not only made a lot of
money for producers of child rearing manuals, but has reflected honor back
upon the "theory" from which such profound applications are derived.

And then there are the various other pseudo-phenomena, like "Cognitive
dissonance," and "experimenter bias" in contemporary psychology, which turn
out to be special cases of the generality that people bring their
perceptions to reference values, regardless of whether they are consciously
attending the variables in question or not. But the underlying recognition
that people control their perceptions, however awkwardly stated in these
propositions, has resulted in some successful predictions like the case
where the Festinger team predicted accurately that a religious cult would
intensify their proselytizing rather then go out of business when the
flying saucers didnot come on the date predicted. I tried showing the PCT
interpretations of a lot of these psychological facts and phenomena in the
text book, but so far that hasn't stirred many people.

Well, there is an area of popular interest right now that is developing and
that is the theme of Personal Responsibility. The news mags are full of
stories nowadays that revolve around the general theme that people need to
take responsibility for their own behavior, whether in relation to the
social or physical environment, community ambience or whatever. Many have
an underlying flavor, however, that while personal responsibility is more
noble, it's also penalized. What fun is it picking up your own garbage
when the next guy is already on his way to the next park and is gonna get
the best camp site because he didn't pick up? I think PCT carries
implications that long run benefits accrue for people who realize that we
create our own experience (and our own environment as a by-product) with
our actions. But that theme hasn't been very much developed so far.
Anyone got any ideas about how to demonstrate, not just claim, that?

Best holiday Wishes, Dick Robertson
Best, Dick Robertson