[From Bill Powers (931028.1115 MDT)]
Rick Marken (931027.1100) --
Not all perceptual distinctions are motivated by "social"
goals. It seems to me that the perceptual distinctions between
snow types made by Eskimos have more to do with survival goals
than social goals, for example. Same for distinctions that
classify some things as food and others as non-food. There may
be some social overlay in these distinctions (a pork chop is
perceived as food by me but not by my step father) but you
don't need people around to tell you that a brick is not food;
you'll find out.
Mary pointed out off-line that "edible" is an example of a
nonverbal category. While an animal or person can control for
eating things by learning one at a time which specific things
make you sick, which leave you starving, etc., it would be much
more efficient to be able to perceive a class of things which
prove satisfactory as things to eat or are most prudently
avoided. Then, at lunch-time, one need only activate a search for
"something to eat," a reference-category which will be matched as
soon as anything edible is perceived. Naming isn't necessary for
making use of such a category perception.
Bruce Nevin (931027.1443) --
RE: ways of modeling norms.
(a) One is reorganization based on perceptions of others'
behavioral outputs, interpreted as their perceiving one as
This implies that reorganization can intentionally be directed
toward a particular end, and that it is driven by specific
perceptual errors. Perhaps that reading is just due to your
We don't reorganize because of any particular perceptual errors;
it is simply error itself, occurring for any reason and
persisting, that turns on reorganization. What causes
reorganization, theoretically, is a deviation of variables inside
the person from their intrinsic reference states.
So to link one's perceptions of other people's behavior to
reorganization, you have to fill in some missing steps. The
consequences of the other people's behavior must show up as
effects on one's intrinsic state; if the particular variable is
perceptual error, the perceptual error has to be significant and
prolonged to qualify as an intrinsic error.
Being treated as abnormal is not enough, in itself, to cause
reorganization. First, at the very least, one must have learned
to perceive the behavior of others in terms of implications about
one's being normal, and then one must have formed a desire to
perceive oneself, or to be treated, as normal according to their
way of seeing it. This desire will not be maintained unless not
maintaining it has severe consequences -- deprivation,
punishment, overwhelming opposition, lack of needed support, etc.
It is not simply the way one is viewed by others that makes a
difference; it is the real and tangible consequence of being
viewed in a certain way in term of effects on oneself. The reason
for controlling in any particular way, or for reorganizing, is to
be found in those consequences, not in their causes.
This amounts to controlling the perceived perceptions of others
by varying one's own behavioral outputs.
It is AS IF one is perceiving the perceptions of others, but one
is not actually doing so. What one perceives is a private
interpretation (or misinterpretation) of the actions of others,
and more important, actual effects of the actions of others on
(b) The other includes, in addition to this, perceiving and
controlling one's own behavioral outputs in comparison with
one's own perception of what is normal when perceived in
anyone, oneself or another.
To avoid unneccessary objections to that statement, perhaps we
can agree, on this net at least, that when we say "controlling
outputs" we mean controlling that part of our perceptual
experiences that we label "output." We can't make that assumption
with regard to what non-PCTers mean by controlling output, but
here I think we can take it for granted.
So yes, learning social conventions does involve comparing one's
own outputs with the outputs of others. But the reason for doing
this is not simply to behave like others; it is to control the
experienced consequences of not behaving like others.
In speaking of social conventions, it is easy to accept the
appearance that they are effective simply because they exist. It
is easy to overlook the fact that they are ENFORCED. What the
child controls for, in many cases, is not conformity with a
social convention, but avoidance of the enforcement. Adopting the
social convention is simply a means by which the consequences of
not adopting it are avoided. The child doesn't care whether food
is conveyed to the mouth by hand or by fork. But the child does
care about the consequences of picking the wrong method,
consequences which are contained in the way adults act when the
socially wrong method is used. These ways include everything from
mild disapproval to physical punishment.
Social conventions do not modify our behavior by magic, simply
because they are there: others deliberately or accidentally act
on us in a way that imposes penalties for not obeying the
convention. We obey social conventions for reasons that are much
like the reasons we don't cut ourselves with sharp objects --
after the first few experiences. Only much, much later in life do
we try to find our own reasons for creating and living under
social conventions. And those of us who actually get around to
doing this as often as not invent their own variations.
When you speak of the effects of social conventions or norms, you
often express yourself in a way that makes it seem that these
things are effective simply because they exist. I would be more
comfortable if you showed more explicit awareness of the
underlying mechanisms in pursuing these metaphors. What elicits
objections to your words is simply a suspicion that you believe
social standards and norms to be effective WITHOUT any underlying
mechanisms, without any actions taken by those adhering to the
standards and norms to influence people to behave according to
the same standards and norms, through rewards and punishments.
Saying that language forms because of social conventions makes it
sound as though there is no deeper explanation. It removes from
the discussion the idea that people control for what happens to
them, not for any external state of affairs. It takes out of the
picture the persistent and strong efforts that adults make to
encourage or punish children into using one kind of outputs
instead of another. So this way of speaking implies that social
conventions and norms have effects just by being there; that
nothing else is required for them to have a shaping effect on
behavior. That implication, I believe, is false. No explanation
based just on conventions and norms can actually explain how
Tom Bourbon (private);
14deg will be included in my shipment of discs tomorrow. See the
C listing for an explanation.
Best to all,