Introducing myself

Sun, 24 Sep 1995 22:45 PDT
I am a 65 year old semi-retired PhD physiological psychologist living on 10
beautiful wooded and rocky acres outside of Victoria, BC Canada. I read
Power's 1973 book after buying it in a 2nd-hand store and found it to be
incredibly good. I had moved through an adolescence with Freud, college
with general stimulus-response psychology and group dynamics, Grad school I
(Columbia) in a fantastic sociology department followed by 2 US peaceful
Army years, mostly in an outpatient psych clinic, finishing up with a return
to psychology at Univ Mich ..... clinical and then quickly shifting to
physiological (brain & behavior and auditory rersearch. My reason for
mentioning all this is that the shift to sociology led to 8 months of not
understanding anything and finding myself incapable of normal gradute school
functioning. But then I learned to think and see the world through
sociologist's eyes and category systems. I've spent much of my life since in
a useless struggle to open other academicians eyes the way mine were so
painfully confronted with non-reality.

I had also encountered Norbert Weiner's cybernetics and heard him speak. In
a similar vein was Ashby's book Design for a Brain and my own research with
sensory systems and the complexity of ascending and descending pathways run
by multiple sights within the CNS. An important discovery for me (never
published) was of the "missing 20 msec" in simple reaction time experiments.
If one adds up transmission times from eye to brain and back down to the
fingers, there is about 20 msec unaccounted for. My account was to assume
it was used to move through a complex neural hierarchical categorizing
system. All this, plus much more, helped me to appreciate the genius of
Power's theory. Like most of you, it has been disappointing to see how
impossible it is to shift psychologists and most everyone else, from S-R
sequence thinking. I was happy when Glasser tried to make Power accessible
(Stations of the Mind) but hen disappointed when he reissued the book with a
different title and little acknowledgement of his standing on the shoulder
of a giant (to steal a phrase from Merton's book of the same name).

My neurophysiology research life ended when I became disturbed by the extent
to which single-cell research of visual processing demonstrated the
division of input into various feature detectors (motion, speed, line
orientation, etc) and so was totally inconsistent with our conscious visual
experience. I've been reading many of the plethora of high-powered expert's
books seeking to explain consciousness ever since but it still seems like
the big unknown.

I switched to education, partly in response to a friend who commented that
school biology goes from the neck to the waistline. I found that
adolescents were fascinated by the brain and quite capable of understanding
while their teachers and education professors were administering an
education system that treated the brain as a passive memorising device.
I've been trying to influence educational change these past 30 years with
only spotty success ....some with Unesco and an international teacher's
union federation (working mostly in Africa). Twenty one years ago we moved
to Victoria .... teaching and consulting.

One of my particular interests is in anxiety/stress and a recasting into PCT
terms. I'll go into some detail as I'm looking for critiques. First, two
experiences: (1) as a teacher I walked into a classroom one day with the
thin nylon hood of my ski jacket covering my face. I moved silently amongst
the students where the tension produced immediately was obvious to all
despite most being aware of my identity. Our discussion concerned the
unpredictability/anxiety relationship; (2) while sittting in a train at a
big railway station, I became aware of the train on the adjoining track
moving ...or was it my train moving? A few days later, driving a car,
approaching a stoplight, applying the brake with another car alongside, I
suddenly wasn't sure about my rate of deceleration. On the train. I sat
with no anxiety while in my car, the uncertainty created immediate anxiety.
In thinking over this comparison, I assumed that the difference was my need
to act on the visual input in the car. from this, my revelation: anxiety
is an automatic reaction whenever input is insufficient to support our
ongoing decision processes. This has obvious survival uses when we are in
situations which permit sufficient control to be exercised. Unfortunately,
in most schools with their S-R teachers instead of PCT teachers, students
end up with much anxiety and unfortunate consequences for their attention,
learning and memory processes. Classroom anxiety is the most untalked about
and unwritten about phenomena. Instead, we have countless books on learning
disabilities and attention deficit disorders and drugged kids.

So, I have a mission that I need your help for. I want to put together a
reasonable and comprehensible picture that links PCT with my anxiety theory.
Part of my problem is that although I have no troble with the basic concepts
of PCT, I feel there may be a need to include the extent to which what we
are controlling for, takes place within a stimulus context that imposes
critical aspects of itself upon our ongoing control processes. Much of this
imposition may be taking place at unconscious/preconscious levels with
occasional indicators of more emotional tone modulation that full conscious
processing. It seems like part of the whole issue of ATTENTION and who,
what, when, and why controls it.

I realize much of this confusion may stem from my just getting back into
reexploring PCT plus the fact that I've never had the
engineering/mathematical background to proceed on that basis. At any rate,
I hope there is someone out there in CSGnet with interests in enlightening
me. Before I take on the education system with renewed vigour, I'd like to
feel I know what I'm talking about!

In closing, let me just mention that I've been working with others on
conflict resolution approaches as applied internationally for early 3rd
party interventions in ethnic conflicts within countries ... arriving early
before the shooting starts. I think there is a need for an in depth PCT
application to ethnic identity, manipulative ethnic leaders and the means to
intervene. Again, help needed.
David Wolsk

[From Dick Robertson] (950925.2035CDT)
Welcome to CSGnet. I got very excited to read your
self-introduction. Another psychologist who has seen what is wrong
with contemporary "theory." I am a clinician, psychotherapist and
semi-neuropsychologist also interested in anxiety. After working it
out years ago with some of my students I think I found support for
the idea that anxiety is the name we give to the constellation of
experiences that accompany reorganization efforts in the hierarchy.
(What I take for evidence I will try to outline as the discussion
goes further. Anyway, welcome and let's year more from you. Best
Dick Robertson