[From Rick Marken (960415.2200)]
Bruce Gregory (960415.1405) --
Why is The Principle [control of perception] so threatening? I have few
ideas, but none of them seem persuasive. I'd welcome other thoughts.
I LOVE this question. I've been trying to answer it for over 15 years. As
an ex-psychologist (turned control theorist) I think I know why
conventional psychologists don't like The Principle of PCT; but I'm
still not sure why capable people in other fields (biology, cybernetics,
even control engineering) have a problem with it, but many do.
The problem psychologists have with The Principle of PCT is obvious; PCT
suggests that psychologists have missed the point of behavior completely;
it suggests that their whole science is based on the wrong idea; the
idea that perception controls, informs or causes behavior. That is,
psychological science is based on a cause-effect model of behavior.
Psychologists don't think of cause-effect as a model that might be
wrong, however; they think of it as an axiom that must be assumed if
there is to be a science of psychology at all. PCT shows that cause-effect
is a model, not an axiom; and it shows that this model is wrong.
Psychologists who get this implication of the Principle of PCT will
find it quit an unpleasant discovery: so The Principle is despised and
Even psychologists who don't get the idea that _control of perception_ is
fundamentally different than _caused by perception_ notice problems
with PCT right off the bat; PCT doesn't try to explain conventional data;
PCT research differs substantially from most conventional research, mainly
because it has a different aim (to measure the variables involved in control
rather than to determine the effect of independent on dependent variables,
whether they are involved in control or not).
So psychologists (and all other behavioral and cognitive scientists for
that matter) are not going to cozy up to PCT until they are ready to
turn their backs on everything that they have learned to respect as
_great behavioral science_ over the last century and start all over again,
looking at behavior through a new pair of glasses which reveal that
behavior is in fact (not in theory) a process of controlling perceptual
Given the huge investment that academia has in conventional behavioral
and cognitive science -- textbooks, professors, lab equipment, students,
etc. -- I think it's highly unlikely that much acceptance of PCT
principles will come from within that institution. PCT has to develop
outside of academia; if enough good work is done outside of the academia,
we might eventually get noticed by those on the inside. But I'm afraid that
even then it will still be years -- decades -- before behavioral and
cognitive scientists work under the assumption that behavior is the control
That's why I love CSGNet so much; people like you are the only colleagues
I have and its really nice to be able to get together electronically to
discuss this stuff. It would be even nicer if you were just down the hall
at the Living Control Systems Institute -- but this will do for now.