McCrone, Citations

[From Rick Marken (971231.0830)]

Bruce Nevin (971231.0844) --

An excellent commentary on McCrone's paper. Thanks.

Fred Nickols (971231.0940 EST) --

Bill had the good taste to not cite himself in Chapters 2 or 13
(and I assume it was Rick who made him cite himself in Chapter
18. :slight_smile:

Your assumption is correct. Taste (as I'm sure you can tell) was
never my forte;-)

I also cite myself profusely (and tastelessly) in all of my own
published papers but if no one else is doing this stuff who do
I cite?

Your observation about the citations of Powers' work in "Volitional
Action" is actually quite astute. Only a small portion of those
who published in that collection reported research that was based
on the idea that volitional action is the control of perception.
Indeed, only a portion of those who are on your list of authors
who _do_ cite Powers have actually signed up to the idea that
behavior is the control of perception.

I have no idea what to make of those numbers, in that context,
or anywhere else.

What it means is that "control of perception" is an idea up with
which conventional behavioral scientists simply will not put. It
is a _dangerous_ idea that makes Darwin's "dangerous" idea (of
"natural selection") look like a walk in the park. Darwin's
idea (which is almost certainly wrong; Darwin should be celebrated
for amassing the data that proves the _fact_ of evolution)
didn't threaten those in his own discipline. "Natural selection"
was not a threat to biologists. It was a threat to the Judeo-
Christian priesthood and lay believers. "Control of perception"
is not a threat to lay people; rather, it a threat to the
behavioral science priesthood -- a priesthood that bases its
authority on the idea that behavior is _caused_ by internal or
external inputs to the brain.

The fact that you see very few references to William T. Powers
in the behavioral science literature -- even in a book that
purports to be all about volitional action -- is no accident;
it is _intentional_. Conventional behavioral scientists don't
cite WTP because they want PCT to disappear or turn into
something else (like an alternative theory of reinforcement;-)).
They have as much interest in dealing with "control of perception"
and its implications for behavioral research as Episcopal ministers
have in spending Sunday morning dealing with evolution and its
implications for the Judeo-Christian creation myth.

I'll be back with my New Year's predictions later today;-)





Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail:

[From Bruce Nevin (971231.1310)]

Rick Marken (971231.1352) --

"Control of perception"
is not a threat to lay people; rather, it a threat to the
behavioral science priesthood -- a priesthood that bases its
authority on the idea that behavior is _caused_ by internal or
external inputs to the brain.

People who control resources (money, means) want to be able to control
people and they pay psychologists money to figure out how.

People who invest in "human resources" want to be able to fix broken people
so that they can perform to the benefit of their enterprises, and they pay
psychologists money to figure out how.

HPCT says the first is not possible without coercion and unpredictable side
effects but opens a way perhaps to better understanding alignment of the
aims of individuals as shared aims or with aims taken to be those of an

HPCT opens ways to "fix broken people" but offers no assurance that their
reorganization out of therapy will align with institutionalized values and
aims. Ed Ford's approach is explicit in granting ascendancy to socially
sanctioned principles and values, and teaches a process of contextualizing
oneself within institutionalized expectations that would translate readily
from the school to the workplace.

There's a fun book, _Maps of Mind_, with 2-page sketches of myriad
perspectives. One of them, "Left, Right, Center" talks about work on
ideology by someone (name begins with S, I think). One thing I recall from
this is that on the Right, character is seen as something imposed from
without on unruly human nature, and people are amenable to repression but
not to change in any fundamental way; on the Left, character is seen as
emerging from within the individual, something whose emergence can be
guided or thwarted by intervention, and people are capable of change and
growth. HPCT is usually presented in a way that is consistent with a Left
ideology, and this does not appeal to people with a Right ideology -- who
are often people who have inherited or acquired control of resources and
are fearful of losing that control. (Lots of fear on the Right.)

HPCT is probably more neutral in this respect than some of us might like.
Unpredictable reorganization in the face of coerced error says that
repressive control does not work as intended; but it fits the expectation
of unruly human nature and comes as no surprise on the Right. Understanding
of HPCT can be misused. People can be taught that they are controllable and
can come to believe it. Fearful individuals might never reach the
realizations that follow from knowledge that control is ultimately theirs
because, as Bill said, they are empowered to suicide. They might never get
past fear of suicidal thoughts. Reorganization is unpredictable, and does
not necessarily lead to rebellion. The sisters in the Mary Poppins story do
not necessarily turn against their double-binding mother.

There's another reason for the "popularity" of the view that people are
controllable, an especially insidious one. For various reasons, many people
prefer not to feel responsible for results in their lives. They prefer to
attribute control to the environment and to other people. Ten years ago,
even five years ago, my oldest daughter was clearly setting out on this
sort of career. (This is the one whose existence I learned about when she
was 10.) To my joy, she has turned her life around. She has a daughter, a
much happier little girl now that mommie has custody. A wonderful man is in
love with her and she with him, they've been together four years, just
bought a house, are getting married in June.

But so many of her old acquaintances and so many other people I meet are to
one degree or another caught up in being loser choosers, in learned
helplessness, in various ways attributing control to others or to the
environment. Conventional psychology makes perfect sense given that set of
values and expectations -- that culture.

When I was on university campuses, it was a commonplace that many students
were drawn to psychology hoping to make sense of what troubled them in
their own lives, and that often a desire for control of others, seen as a
corollary of themselves not being controlled by others, was a strong

Is this too rambling? These are some of the thoughts I have had about what
could be behind resistance to HPCT. Maybe some ideas about effective
presentation could emerge from all this.

  Gotta run,

  Bruce Nevin