Marken, 1988: "The Nature of Behavior: Control as Fact and Theory"

[From Dag Forssell (2016.11.04.10:40 PDT)]

This article reprinted in Rick's book MIND READINGS, page 11-31.

Interesting that it still is posted on Rick's old home page, where several other links are broken.

Best, Dag


MK (2016.04.11.1215 CET)]

There appears to be at least one person on this list who hasn't read this paper.

DOI: 10.1002/bs.3830330304

"What is behavior? The answer seems so simple that the question is
rarely asked. Behavior is what organisms do - things like walking,
talking and playing chess. Scientific psychology is built on the
assumption that behavior is output - the last step in a causal chain
that begins in the environment or the brain. This is an axiom of
psychological research; a fact beyond question. Nevertheless, there is
an alternative. Powers (1973) has argued that behavior is not output
but a controlled consequence of output: behavior is control.

Control is a real, objective phenomenon that involves the production
of consistent results under varying environmental conditions. Control
theory was developed to explain how control occurs (Black, 1934;
Buckley, 1968; Jones, 1973 Maxwell,1868; Weiner, 1948). While
behavioral scientists have applied the methods and mathematics of
control theory knowledgeably and with success, they have concentrated
primarily on small behavioral or biochemical subsystems (McFarland,
1971; Robinson, 1981; Stark, 1968). Powers (1973) has shown that these
same principles of control can be applied to the organism as a whole,
giving a new slant to the entire subject of behavior.

Powers' approach is based on the realization that behavior itself is
control -- not in theory but in fact. This point has been largely
ignored and control theory continues to be viewed as just another
model of behavior, where "behavior" means output. There is a
misconception about the role of control theory in psychology that
results from failure to distinguish a theory of behavior from the fact
it is designed to explain."