Tom Bourbon [940606.1631]
. . .
I have been enamored with PCT for some time (about 7 years) and discovered
this net about 3 years ago. I have been lurking on it ever since.
Now there is a virtual person to go with the name I've seen every time
I reviewed the list of subscribers. I hope you have been watching long
enough to recognize my remarks and questions in this reply as friendly.
Initially, I did not participate because my exposure to PCT had been
through people in my field (e.g., Carver & Scheier, 1981; Lord & Hanges,
These renditions piqued my interest, but left much unclear. I have since
read Powers' book (1973), which I concur is profound, and his first
collection of works. In addition, I
have read most of the second half of Hershberger's collection; most of the
American Behavioral Scientist special edition (1991); and the Richardson
(1991) book on feedback thought. As well as a lot more in my field that
is using the basic PCT model.
You seem to have read a large portion of the collected works on PCT, as well
as some other sources with which we might not be familiar. Could you give
some citations of work in your field (Industrial/Organizational Psychology)
that uses the basic PCT model?
. . .
One of the reasons I want to jump in now is in response to the recent
posting Dag Forssell made to the TQM, reengineering, and quality lists.
I should have jumped in earler, for there is a problem I see with that
post that will turn off many on those lists. This is a problem that
permeates this list. It is an us against the world attitude.
Remember, you are seeing us when we talk among ourselves -- _after_ we have
put on our best faces and tried to communicate with "the world." When we
try to publish work on PCT modeling, we usually go out of our way to avoid
such an "attitude" -- not that it seems to help.
There are several reasons for this attitude, not the least of which is the
truth to it. BUT, I do not think it is bad as portrayed here.
Hmm. That doesn't seem to jibe with the contents of my file of reviews
and rejections for PCT-related manuscripts.
instance, Forssell, as Marken did in 1991, begins by articulating PCT as a
science of purposiveness. They go on to say that purposiveness is
considered an evil in psychology. There is no doubt that it WAS. But
is embracing purposeful behavior in a big way. For instance, the most
popular motivational theory in organizational psychology currently is
Locke's goal-setting theory. That theory is based on many of the same
self-regulatory ideas as PCT.
It is certainly the case that there are many putatively self-regulatory
models in psychology these days, especially in organizational psychology, or
so I believe from my limited acquaintance with org. psych. But therein
turns part of the tale: The model in PCT is not a self-regulatory model and
PCT is not about self-regulation.
There is no question that Locke and his
school (along with Bandura) has not appreciated PCT, but they have ended
up specifying models that are purposeful.
Or so they say. I've never seen either of them demonstrate that their
models will behave (purposefully or otherwise) in simulation. Instead,
I've seen them assert that things work in a particular way, then they gather
voluminous correlational data in which they look for associations (low, but
significant, correlations) between measures they *assert* are related to the
process of self-regulation. Their research strategy doesn't really produce
the kinds of data we need in order to determine if their "models" work at
all, much less if they work in the alleged manner. (See more on this
I say this as a description of the state of affairs, not as a criticism. I
become critical only when adherents of that style of research begin to
assert that they understand control theory better than we do, and that they
know our ways of using it and testing it are inadequate. You will rarely
see those comments from the self-regulatory camp in print, but they are very
common at the stage or reviewing and rejecting articles on PCT modeling.
Maybe that's one reason we seem to come across as playing us-against-the-
world -- you never see the other side of the argument in print.
In fact, I see many contemporary theories and applications based on the
same underlying principles of PCT.
Are they based on the idea that behavior is the control of perception and
that most of what an observer sees when watching one who controls is
irrelevant or unknown to the controller? Or that the control of perception
is usually not the same as what is often called self-regulation? Or is it
that they say (but do not test in simulation) that feedback (in general, or
perhaps negative feedback, or perhaps both negative and positive feedback)
is important. I do not ask these questions rhetorically or sarcastically;
I am continually on the lookout for new material in which people really do
use PCT, whether or not they call it by that name.
. . .
The point, common in religion, is that those who are closest in beliefs
are often at greatest odds. The PCT school suffers this same solipsism that
does not serve the greater aims of its members. . . .
The most recent example of this on the net is the Paul Revere thread.
Bill C. seems to represent the broader psychological community in his
description of uncertainty and decision-making. His interest in the
focus of control and resources parallels my own. Further his
understanding of the current psychological literature seems to reflect a
broader understanding in psychology than many on the net. This is not to call
the net stupid, just limited.
Thanks. Some of our reviewers are not as kind as you! :-))
We all suffer from this problem. But, the
rejection of psychology out-of-hand is dangerous.
That would certainly be the case, were we to do it. Again, it is a pity
there are ethical constraints on our simply publishing all of the
reviews and rejections of our manuscripts on PCT modeling. Those documents
might give you a better feel for who is the rejector and who the rejectee.
Perhaps Mary P. is right
when she says PCT and the DME have nothing to do with anything psychology
has dealt with, but I doubt it.
But she was merely saying what many of my reviewers have said. Let me use
some of my own experience as an example. You mentioned that you have read
both Wayne Hershberger's book and the special PCT issue of American
Behavioral Scientist. Perhaps you saw my two published articles on PCT
modeling of social interactions; In part, both articles were about instances
in which two people simultaneously perform a tracking task and the actions
of one or both of them interfere with a variable controlled by the other.
Those are the only things I have in print on social intreraction, but I have
a file of unpublished related manuscripts and data, some going on eight
years old. Whenever I submitted that work to traditional journals, I always
cited people whose work might be seen as "related," even when I knew that
was not the case. I was careful to say that I knew some aspects of the
work were unconventional -- I sampled continuous data from two people, I ran
models in simulation to determine if the models would reproduce then predict
later instances of performance by the two people, and so on. I presented the
manuscript as an example of a different way to do social research, a way
that was different from methods in the conventional literature, but that in
no way as intended as a challenge to or rejection of traditional methods, and
on and on. The result? Rejections in which people said such things as,
"This is not like the research we are accustomed to seeing." "Why
continuous variables? Surely the author(s) could have recast the experiment
to provide discrete data." And so on. In every case, I was told that I
was dealing with something different -- something they weren't interested
in. So you see, Mary had it right.
. . .
But the point is that PCT netters don't often walk the talk. They want
others to see their way but reject anything not from them. This leads to
misunderstandings and straw images of the each others theories.
We are often said to offer "straw images" of other people's models, but in
our defense I offer the fact that the people who posit "models" of
self-regulation or self-control typically do not provide anything resembling
a working model for their ideas and they certainly do not test their ideas
by requiring their "models" to behave in simulation. Absent any working
models from those theorists, we often try to turn their words into working
models, in order to test them in simulation. Perhaps the fact that those
"straw models" so often fail in simulation is a sign of something other
than a deliberate attempt by us to make other people look bad. After all,
*anyone* -- anyone at all -- who objects to our "straw images" can, at any
time, provide their own (non-straw) version of a model and demonstrate that
it *does* behave the way they say it will. (Of course, when I have
foolishly suggested that possibility, in manuscripts that I submitted, my
suggestion has drawn comments that I was engaging in a cute, cheap ploy,
intended to make my own presentation look better. And all the while I
thought I was inviting people to shoot me down and make themselves look
good. Silly me!)
Another example from Dag's post. He says that psychology (presumable
cognitive) articulates a model of blind execution of internal plans. My
reading of the literature is that the plans are a set of reference
signals, just like PCT talks about.
This is a crucial point, Jeff. Do the *writers* of that literature say that
people act to produce and control their own perceptions, with their
actions serving as unintended means to that end? (In the PCT model, we use
reference signals to represent those kinds of intentions.) Or is it, as you
literally say, that you *read* the literature that way -- perhaps reading
into it something you *want to see* -- something you believe *ought to be
Further, an error signal that is
larger that the plan expects will cause a focus of attention to that point
in the hierarchy (see Vallacher & Wegner, 1987, psych review). There is
some very interesting stuff coming from many corners of psychology.
I'm not sure what you mean by " an error signal that is larger than the plan
expects." Could you say a little more about that idea?
individual in the applied setting is controlling their own unique set of
reference signals, using their own perceptual functions, and their own
behavior repertiores. Dealing with all this complexity, diversity, and
interaction is not easy, period. The one response I have come across most
for not adopting systems theory and PCT is that it has not fulfilled its
promise. It would help if PCT stopped promising so much so soon.
PCT doesn't promise anything, but some of its adherents do. What should
"we" do, instead? (And who are we, anyway?)
One final thing, I have been teaching PCT to undergrads and grads, so you can
increment the number of teachers teaching it.
Great. You can take my place -- I recently stopped teaching and fell from
I hope to participate more
fully in the future, but forgive me if I am not as responsive as others on
Watch out; this net has a way of taking over your life!
As the assistant in my title implies, my am trying to get tenure.
A brave person, indeed!
See you on the list.