More about psychoterapy

Nice Fred,

It seems that we could have wonderfull, cheerful  times… I’d really need yourr company right now… JJJ.

I think I read it in Tims’ book how important are people themselves in getting better. I think he said something like this. Â Getting better happens within individual heads.

So if one chooses cheerful life and good friends company, and he feels good (moderate), then I suppose no Psychoterapy is needed. But I don’t know if I udnerstood him right ? J

Cheers Fred.




From: Fred Nickols []
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2015 4:07 PM
Subject: RE: Comman and Control (was Re: Examples of everyday control (was …))

Yes, Boris, I drink wine – and vodka and beeer and bourbon and tequila and various liqueurs – but always in modeeration.


From: Boris Hartman []
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2015 10:42 AM
Subject: RE: Comman and Control (was Re: Examples of everyday control (was …))

Hi Fred,

I’m really looking forward to meet you one day. Do you drink wine ? J

Just a little advice. Don’t beleive everything what you read or hear from your friends, it can be that they are not right or that they just want to suit you, or they are not paying attention and they just nod.

And don’t beleive always what you think it’s right. It can be an illusion (perceptual, behvioral, whatever…).

By my oppinion it’s necessary to »redefine« behavior so that it will be in accrodance with PCT. J The interpretations of Bill’s work are different, and also understanding of terms, he used. But I remember Barb saying that her dad very carefully choosed words. And I agree with her. His terms are very well defined and I don’t see a reason why he shouldn’t be a reference with his terms to all of us.



From: Fred Nickols []
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2015 10:59 AM
Subject: RE: Comman and Control (was Re: Examples of everyday control (was …))

[From Fred Nickols (2015.10.29.0545)]

Thanks for this, Bruce. I think you raise an extremely important point. (And I have read Martin’s response as well.)

The important point is that redefining “behaviorâ€? does indeed invite misunderstanding – and opposition. On my part I tend to say tthings like, “Our behavior serves to control our perceptionsâ€? and Bill himself had no problem with that.

Behavior, to the rest of the world, is a term that refers to “the activity of the organism.� That might be overt, observable behavior and it might be covert, difficult or impossible to observe behavior. Bill used to draw a distinction between “What is he doing?� and “What is he up to?� The former focuses on observable activity and the latter focuses on goals, control, etc.

To me, the value of PCT lies in it being a much better explanation of behavior than those offered by behaviorists or cognitivists and I see no need to alter the basic definition of behavior to make good use of PCT.

It hadn’t occurred to me until I read your post that a major source of opposition or objection to PCT isn’t that it criticizes much research or even that it attempts to prove the S-R view wrong; instead, it is an insistence on the part of some PCTers to redefine behavior itself. More’s the pity from my perspective because I don’t believe that is necessary.

Fred Nickols

From: Bruce Nevin []
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 11:34 PM
Subject: Re: Comman and Control (was Re: Examples of everyday control (was …))

Nice post, Martin.

In the title Behavior: the control of perception, the colon is equivalent to is in the sentence "behavior is the control of perception.

Consequently, in order to talk about “behavior” in this PCT sense we have to talk about the entire loop, because it is the entire loop that controls perception. The reference value doesn’t control perception. The behavioral outputs don’t control perception. Circular causation around the entire closed loop controls the perceptual input in accord with the reference value.

Behavior: the control of perception is an in-your-face title. A wake-up slap in the face. It’s Bill telling his professors in the grad psych program that he abandoned that they are wrong. It’s Bill telling the gatekeepers, the reviewers of journal articles and grant proposals, that they are wrong. Of course it also brilliantly encapsulates the essential thing about control, but it does so by seemingly putting the emphasis on behavior rather than on control, and in so doing it insists on a technical definition of behavior that is at variance from everybody else’s usage of the word.

Doing so, it creates a communication problem. Any difference between technical usage and common usage, or between technical usage in one field and technical usage of what we think is the “same word” in another field, creates problems of communication.

In common usage, and in the established schools of psychology, the word “behavior” refers to observable activity. In PCT-talk, behavior is the control of perceptual input. Behavior in the sense of actions is the observable means of making an experience be the way we want it to be, but that is only part of the control loop.

In PCT-talk, we make the distinction with words like “behavioral outputs”, “actions”, and perhaps “control actions”. ‘Behavior’ in the familiar sense of “activity” is not controlled; behavior, in the technical PCT sense forced by Bill’s title, is control. But these terminological specializations are a standing invitation to misunderstanding by our listeners and readers, and, frankly, an invitation to equivocation in those of us who claim to know something about PCT. Another layer of potential confusion arises when we say (as Martin recently wrote) that imagining is a form of activity, closing the loop through perceptions at level n which form the (interior) environment for control of perceptions at level n+1. That’s behavior (control of perception) without any observable activity, unless we count introspection as observation.


On Wed, Oct 28, 2015 at 9:26 AM, Martin Taylor wrote:

[Martin Taylor 2015.]

On 2015/10/28 1:08 AM, Boris Hartman wrote:


So if you and Rick don’t understand difference between »Behavior is Control« and »Behavior : The Control of perception«, you wil have to read B:CP again to understand PCT.

I’m sorry you didn’t understand my attempt to point out one subtlety of the English language that is the reason for an arcane dispute between Rick and me. You apparently didn’t even realize that there was any dispute, as indeed I had not until quite recently. I had long thought Rick and I meant the same thing when we used the word “Behaviour” (or “Behavior”), and was quite surprised to find I was wrong.

The problem is in the difference between “Behaviour is Control” (Rick) and “Behaviour as Control” (Behaviour: the Control of Perception). Apparently you didn’t even notice that I was trying to explain to you the difference that you say I didn’t understand. If there’s a problem having two so-called English speakers recognize a subtle difference, it must be very hard for you, even if you say you do. After all, in the message that annoyed you, I concentrate on explaining a much more important difference, between both of those and “Control of Behaviour”, which to me is a nonsense concept that does not work in either engineering or psychology. You had used all three concepts as though they meant the same thing, and now you say I don’t understand the more subtle of the distinctions. Strange.

Please try to be a little more careful when you make severe judgments. You have often claimed that some mistake you have made might be due to your command of English, and that is a very fair proposition. I wondered when I wrote one of my recent messages whether you understood the difference between “command” and “control”, and I wonder whether your most recent diatribe might be because you didn’t. Just in case that was the problem, here’s an example to illustrate the difference.

In one of Shakespear’s plays (Henry IV?) there’s a scene between Owen Glendower and (I think) Hotspur. Geldower says something like “I can call spirits from the vasty deep”, to which Hotspur replies “Aye, and so can I and so can any man. But when you call, will they come?”

In that scene, Glendower says he can command the spirits, and Hotspur agrees that everyone can do that, but then he asks if Glendower can control them (of course, Shakespear didn’t know about control systems and the control of perception, but he did know the difference between Behaviour – calling the spirits – and perceiving the spirits rising out of the vasty deep. That’s the difference between command and control, between the output part of a control loop and the effect of the entire loop on what an observer can see being influenced by the Behaviour. Command may have the desired result, Control, but it often does not. When Command does not produce Control, reorganization may happen, but often does not. That’s why I included research on reorganization as one of the open areas for PCT research.

Reference values Command; the entire loop Controls. Command influences the environment of the control unit, Control is of perception and only of perception.

Anyway, I’m sorry you misunderstood my attempts at explanation, and I hope this helps.


rom: Martin Taylor []
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 9:18 PM
Subject: Re: Examples of everyday control (was Re: Somebody should take this on)

[Martin Taylor 2015.]

On 2015/10/27 9:41 AM, Boris Hartman wrote:


most questions in your answers are refering to problem what is »Control of behaviour« or »Behaviour as Control«, »Behavior is Control«, etc.

To me, those are three quite different concepts. I would strongly object to the first, the second is almost the title of Bill’s book, while I’m beginning to realize that the third hides a disagreement I didn’t think I had with Rick, about the definition of the word “behaviour”.

Rick invented it and he is about to prove it with his spreadshit. I’m disapointed, because you didn’t »come in« sooner to explain Rick what is behaviour« and put him quaetions like you did to me.

That’s because I think Rick and I have the same underlying concept of control, whether we agree on the definitions of words or not. When you get away from the words into the mathematics and the experiments, we usually seem to agree. Words are slippery, even when two people have the same native language, as is almost the case between Rick (American English) and me (Anglo-Canadian English). It’s much harder when our native languages are as different as yours and ours.

As I read Rick [From Rick Marken (2015.10.27.1000)], his “behaviour” encompasses control. “Behaviour” in that sense is indistinguishable from “control”, BY DEFINITION. So I wonder why have two separate words for the same concept. in my usage. “behaviour” is a component of control, as is perception. My “behaviour” is not control, but is the means by which the controller acts on the environment to influence the perception. The difference between those definitions is so small that it often goes un-noticed (at least by me). I don’t like Rick’s definition because it seems like a waste of a word to use it as a substitute for a perfectly good word “control”, and makes it impossible to use a perfectly normal word to describe something one does have to talk about when discussing control.

As far other theories of psychological »Control loops« are concerned you can reed Carver&Scheier and Jeff Vancouver, etc. They are all grouped arround theories with common name »Self-regulaton«. There you can see how it’s possible to make a control loop, where Behavior is Control.

I’ve never read Carver and Schrier. As for Jeff Vancouver, I never saw problems with his work that he discussed on CSGnet, but I guess he has a lot of other work that I haven’t read. If you get away from the word “Self-regulation” do you have a problem with what he actually claims happens in control?

MT : But maybe I can interpret it. You can correct me if I misinterpret. I think you may be referring to loops such as the Krebs Cycle and the myriads of loops that the physiologists find in their networks of chemical and neurological interconnections. These all provide a stable infrastructure on which the organism can reliably control perceptions of the outer world. Is that what you mean? If so, I agree, but it’s not an aspect of PCT any more than the electron orbital structure of the atoms, on which all chemistry depends, is a part of biochemistry. Biochemists can, if needed, use electron orbitals, and PCT researchers can, if needed, use internal physiological network structures. But normally they don’t

HB : Very close. But there is one problem left. PCT is by my oppinion also holding for this aspect and at least one aspect more, But for that the arrow to »intrisic« or »essential« variables from genetic source has to be solved.

Along with a lot else. The actual set of levels in the hierarchy is one; whether the control structure is a hierarchy is another. How the different kinds of memory are stored and accessed and used is another. How many different kinds of reorganization is another. Is reorganization modular, nested modular, fractally modular, overlapped modular, non-modular …? In different animals and other organisms, what is the balance between learning over evolutionary time and learning within a lifetime?

I wouldn’t be surprised if one could write a book just listing such problems and discussing what the answers might imply. Many of them were mentioned by Bill either formally or informally. They are all unsolved, and mostly unaddressed. A wide field for PCT research.