Influence, centipedes, instruction

[From Bill Powers (920828.0900)]

Greg Williams (920828)--

Once again, Skinner's "control" = PCT's "influence" -- consistently.

If >"most people think about control just the way Skinner did," then
they >believe that people can be influenced and that they themselves
can >influence people to have particular outputs. And that belief IS
in fact >true, isn't it, at least in a circumscribed way?

The contradiction here is contained in "influence people to have
particular outputs." If you are only _influencing_ behavior -- which
means that you can alter only one of many sources of influence and
cannot determine whether there will be any effect -- then you can't
expect to make a person produce particular outputs. The outputs will
be whatever is required by the sum of ALL influences, not just yours,
and it will also be whatever is required by the reference signal
defining the desired outcome of the actions. Not the outcome you
desire; the outcome the behaving system desires.

People are not generally content merely to apply an influence to
someone else's behavior and accept the result. To do that would be to
accept the fact that the other's behavior is most likely to proceed as
before with no effect from the supposed "influence." What happens in
reality is that if the first attempt at influence fails, as it is most
likely to do, there will be continued attempts involving varieties of
influences and increasing force behind the influences. The influencer
reveals the fact that this is an attempt at control, not merely at
influence. The object is to have a particular effect on the other's
behavior that matches the influencer's goal for the effect.

The transition from mild and innocuous attempts at influence to
concerted attempts to control is inevitable, for the simple reason
that mere influence has almost no effect. The father, full of good
nondirective and noncoercive intentions, says, "Johnny, don't you
think you'd be safer if you didn't play in the street?" Johnny thinks
it over for 0.5 sec and goes on bouncing his ball in the street. Papa
gets up, goes to Johnny and looms over him and says "Really, is this a
good place to play? Wouldn't you like to play with your ball on the
nice soft lawn?" Johnny, not yet getting the point, says "It won't
bounce on the grass." Papa ever so gently puts his arm around Johnny
and pushes a little toward the curb, then a lot, and finally picks up
Johnny, who is now struggling and screaming, and carries him to
safety, putting him down on the nice soft lawn with perhaps a little
extra velocity and handing him the ball. Papa says, "There, now, isn't
this better?"

Papa knows where he wants Johnny to be, and puts him there after first
trying some ineffective influencing. He's madly pretending, of course,
that he isn't trying to control Johnny; that's why he only asks
questions and speaks as if he's appealing to what Johnny really, deep
down, wants. That's a delusion: he's talking about what HE wants
Johnny to want. He can't go around following Johnny all the time; he's
hoping that nice words will make Johnny do what Papa wants without
Papa having to get up out of his nice lawn chair.

The delusion behind influencing people's behavior is the conviction
that it works. By the time the "influencing" has finally been made to
work, it has escalated into out-and-out control. Sweet reason finally
comes down to "Get in the goddamned car; I'm not leaving a fertile 14-
year-old girl alone in the house for two weeks." Although perhaps
"fertile" would not be mentioned.

Psychology has always been concerned with the control of human
behavior. It used to say so right out loud: the goal of psychology is
the prediction and control of behavior. At the same time, however, the
hope has been to accomplish this end through words, through little
rewards, and if not punishments, at least withholdings and time-outs.
In other words, to achieve control without all the nastiness and
inconvenience of physically overpowering the victim. To do it by
remote control, from the lawn chair. That's why the idea of
"influence" is so appealing. You can't accuse someone of brutality
just for saying "Wouldn't it be nicer to play on the lawn?" Once you
get that sort of mild statement to work, however, you've already put
the influencee on notice that if that doesn't work, there's more
direct action that one is willing and able to take. What seems to be
mere influence is understood by all concerned, whether said aloud or
not, to be a warning that control is going to succeed, whatever it
takes. So Johnny walks sullenly back to the lawn while Papa sits at
ease sucking contentedly on his beer. Johnny then throws his ball onto
the roof.

If you're going to control someone, then control -- don't pretend
something else is happening. The pretense just leads to a psychotic
society in which everyone talks and thinks as if one kind of
relationship were going on, while the actuality is something entirely
different. If we don't recognize when we're controlling, we will never
figure out how our own attempts to control others are causing all the
social ills we're trying to cure through control. We'll shy away from
necessary acts of control, as in getting Johnny the hell out of the
traffic, when control is actually called for. As long as we use
euphemisms like "influence" when we really mean "control," we'll never
discover how influence can actually be created without any tinge of
coercion. And we'll go into conflict with ourselves when control is
actually required.

Once we understand the difference between influence and control, we'll
present whatever influences we think may help others or ourselves and
be content if others decide that this time they choose not to be
influenced. When we need to control someone to preserve a life or
protect against being controlled, we will then not hesitate; we will
do it quickly and skillfully using no more effort than necessary, and
no less.


Eileen Prince (920828) --

RE: the centipede who couldn't walk. Gee, I hope I haven't caused a
lot of accidents!
Eric Harnden (920828)

Living Control Systems (published works) and Living Control Systems II
(unpublished ones) wasn't explicitly named for Bayliss's book, but we
knew of it. Sort of a nod to Bayliss (sp?). He wrote a pretty good

Sources of instruction are a continuing problem. Until we get real CT
courses in more colleges and universities, about all there is is
reading and the net.

Don't, by the way, worry about asking stupid questions about simple
things. And if you don't understand the answer, say so and we'll try
again. Most of us on this net have the goal of helping people to
understand control theory, not of proving how advanced we are. Often
the simplest questions lead to the most interesting interchanges and
encourage silent listeners to get involved in the conversation.
Best to all,

Bill P.