HPCT as the Behaviorist Views It

[From Rick Marken (970227.0650 PST)]

Bruce Abbott (970225.2245 EST) to Me:

_What_ organisms control is not the only problem that must be
addressed. Other problems require other methods. It's as
simple as that.

Bruce Gregory (970226.1030 EST) --

Control is the _only_ problem. Beat that for simplicity :wink:

Impossible. It's perfect!



[From Rick Marken (970227.1310)]

Martin Taylor (970226 11:00) --

Perhaps this message will be seen as wilfully malicious.

Nah. Just another post from Martin;-)

You have asserted that it is illegitimate to seek how these
perceptual variables are produced

I did? Well, shame on me, then.

that it is illegitimate to look at how output systems may be

Really? Who do I think I am?

that it is illegitimate to consider how "the controlled variable"
changes as disturbances change, etc., etc.

Did I forget to mention that it is illegitimate to be born out of wedlock?

The _only_ thing that may legitimately be studied is _what_
perceptual variable(s) is/are controlled--not even when, why,
or how "what" changes.

I think you are missing my point. I do think that the determination of
controlled variables has to be a central part of research on living control
systems. But I don't think the determination of controlled variables is the
only legitimate thing to be studied.
I think all the things you mentioned above are potentially interesting
subjects of study. But it seems to me that you have to know that you are
dealing with a control system (which means that you have to know _some_ of
the variables it is controlling) before you can do _behavioral_ studies of
the nature of perceptual functions, the organization of output systems or the
reasons for variations in reference signals. In fact, something like all
these kinds of studies have been done in the context of tracking tasks where
we know very precisely what variables are under

By harping on the importance of Testing for Controlled Variables I have
obviously been giving the wrong impression regarding what I think
psychological researchers should be doing in a PCT-aware world. Let me try
putting it this way. What I would like to see
from psychological researchers is simply some _conscious awareness_ that the
behavior of organisms is the control of perceptual variables. I would like
researchers to be aware of the fact that the behaviors they can see do not
necessarily correspond to what the organism is actually doing (what
perceptions it is controlling).

I would expect that such an awareness would have an influence on the kinds of
questions reseachers ask about behavior and on how they go about trying to
answer those questions. Testing for controlled variables will simply be a
natural -- and probably unacknowledged, as it is in our tracking tasks --
part of all the work done by such researchers.

Most of the research that has been (and is being) done by psychological
researchers is clearly done without any awareness of the fact that the
subjects of this research are perceptual control systems. When such an
awareness does develop among psychological researchers I am sure that the
research methods that support this awareness will follow along naturally.

So, for now, I guess I will have to content myself with writing about ways to
study the behavior of living control systems (as I do in the "Dancer and the
Dance" paper) for an audience that exists largely in the future; an audience
of researchers who know that organsims are perceptual control systems -- and
all that that implies.