[From Rick Marken (951029.1700)]
Bruce Abbott (951028.1335 EST) --
feeling something "in your bones" is no proof of truth
I don't think "feeling PCT in your bones" means "unquestioned belief in
PCT". I think it means that you can really "see" that behavior is the
control of perception.
You have PCT in your bones when you can see behavior as the observable
side effect of the process of controlling perception. Having PCT in your bones
is like having Copernicus in your bones. You have Copernicus in your bones
when you can watch the sun setting over the Pacific (as my wife and I did last
night) and "see" a stationary sun disappearing behind the rising horizon of
the great globe on which you sit. You have PCT in your bones when you can
watch a "reflex" kick in response to a tap stimulus and see the kick as an
observable side effect of the process of controlling a perception of tendon
You have PCT in your bones when you treat the theory, _tentatively_ but
seriously, as the way behavior works. It's the way I imagine you treat the
Copernican model of the solar system; you don't think of it as a more
parsimonious view than that of Ptolomy; you take Copernicus seriously; you
think that the sun really is stationary and that the world and the planets are
moving around it. This belief is tentative; but I bet you don't think that
Ptolomy is the serious alternative. When PCT is in your bones you treat it
the way you treat the Copernican model; you really believe that people are
controlling their own perceptions and that what you see is just a side-effect
of this process. This belief is tentative but you know that cause-
effect models of behavior are not a serious alternative.
Once PCT is in your bones you become more critical of the theory, not less.
You try to develop tests to see how far you can go with PCT; what behavioral
phenomena you can explain. Whenever you test PCT like this you are
putting the theory at risk; PCT can be falsified. But falsifiaction is only
possible if PCT is subjected to tests that are clearly and quantitatively
derived from the theory. Pointing at random examples of behavior (like those
of interest in conventional behavioral science) and asking how PCT would
explain them does not test PCT because these observations are not clearly
related to the theory; we don't know, for example, if we are looking at
controlled variables, the observable side effects of control or effects that
have nothing to do with control.
When PCT is in your bones you can no longer take conventional behavioral
research methods seriously. These methods are advertised as the "methods
of science" but PCT shows that they are only the methods of science when the
systems studied by this science are causal (rather than control) systems;
these methods _cannot_ provide the data needed to determine whether any
particular phenomenon we observe actually involves control. This is a
factual, not a theoretical; point; conventional methods have not -- and
cannot -- provide the evidence needed to determine whether or not PCT can
account for any behavioral phenomenon.
Having PCT in your bones means knowing that conventional cause-effect
models of behavior are wrong; they are no longer viable "alternatives" to
PCT. These theories have been rejected in many different experimental tests
(to the extent that we were able to come up with working versions of these
theories to test). If PCT is eventually rejected, it will not be replaced by
any version of S-R, reinforcement, cognitive or complex systems theory.
So, if there is any religious devotion to a theory on this net it must surely
include your own devotion to the _possibility_ that (for example) reinforce-
ment theory can explain any aspect of real behavior. As you explained in your
term paper, reinforcement theory does not correctly handle the effects of
disturbances to "reinforcing" consequences. Reinforcement theory (like
Ptolomaic theory) fails; it's time to start testing the theory that works;
PCT. And the only way to test PCT is with methods that include an
implicit or explicit test for controlled variables.
Your reluctance to abandon conventional research methods (or to answer my
questions about what information about testing for controlled variables will
be included in the next edition of your text on behavioral research) suggests
that you still don't have PCT in your bones; you are, as Bill Powers
suggested, still up to your eyeballs in the cause-effect view of behavior.
You will know that you have PCT in your bones when conventional research
methods no longer look like a reasonable way to study purposeful systems. You
will know that you have PCT in your bones when you know that the only hope
for finding a PCT explanation of some conventional psychological phenomenon
(reinforcement, imprinting, bystander intervention, etc) is by repeating
the relevant studies with the intent of discovering the variables that
the individual(s) involved in the study might be controlling.
You'll know that you have PCT in your bones when the first question you have
about behavior is "what variables are under control" and the first thing that
occurs to you as the way to answer this question is to test for controlled