RM: Thanks for your comments. They actually give me an opportunity to explain why I decided to do these seminars in the first place.
RM: I did them because it gave me an opportunity to teach PCT as I understand it. The idea of doing the first seminar (in June) came to me thanks to the pandemic. We were on a Zoom call with a professor friend of ours and I realized that this Zoom thing could be a nice forum for teaching PCT. So I thought I would teach a Zoom course on PCT the way I thought it should be taught – not the way it was being taught by many of the “PCT experts” on the net. But given the way things had been going with PCT discussions on the net since Bill passed away I thought I would be lucky if I got any sign-ups at all. I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up with nearly 30 students. So I went ahead and did it and I thought it went reasonably well. I had a nice time, anyway.
RM: After finishing the work on my PCT research methods book I thought it would be nice to try doing another Zoom course. But I didn’t want to do the same course again because I assumed there would be no audience for it. So I decided what might be most useful would be a small seminar on PCT research. I was expecting a very small group because I knew there were very few people doing PCT research. And I figured those who would take it would already be quite familiar with the PCT model; so it would be all about testing the model; no more talk about “what PCT really says”. And it kind of came out that way but there ended up being a lot of non-researchers in it and I’m afraid I didn’t always handle things all that well for them – as in your case. But I enjoyed doing the seminar and I hope people learned something from it; I think I did.
So now to your comments
EdH: First, @rsmarken in his recap (10 min in) mentioned my session 1 remark that I thought belief is a system concept perception and disregarded that statement as not fitting PCT. That recap disturbed quite some of my controlled variables (about being understood properly, for one) so allow me to explain some more.
RM: I thought that might upset you. And I’m sorry. But this was a research seminar – about how to do research to test the existing PCT model – not a seminar on how to extend that model sans empirical test. But I admit that I handled it poorly because I could have used your comment about “belief” to discuss how one might go about studying that phenomen from a PCT perspective. The first step would be to figure out what phenomenon is being point to by the word “belief”. Like “behavior”, “belief” is not a scientific term. And when we look more closely at what is being referred to by the word we should get a better idea of what is to be explained. And since PCT purports to be a theory of all behavior/psychological phenomena, one should be able to find an explanation of belief – whatever that is – in the existing model.
EdH: I think I can make a valid case for believing as a way to control system concept level perceptions.
RM: I’m sure you can make a “case” for that but it wouldn’t be the kind of “case” I was interested in in the seminar. From the perspective of the aims of the seminar, the only “case” that should be made for “believing being a way to control system concepts” is empirical test. And “believing being a way to control system concepts” is not part of the PCT model so there is nothing to be tested. In fact, the model says we control system concepts by varying references for principles not by varying “beliefs” (or believing).
RM: But my main problem with your idea about “believing” being being part of the control hierarchy was that it seemed to be explaining a (not clearly defined) phenomenon (belief) in terms of the phenomenon itself; we believe because we have control systems in our brains that do believing. I couldn’t think of what that tautology was called but I noticed in the video that someone had said it: dormitive principle (which comes from a Moliere play where doctors explain the sleep inducing capabilities of opium by saying that it contains a sleep inducing property – the dormative (sleep) principle.
EdH:…I think we should understand the different levels in hierarchy as different ways to control perceptions, and that these perceptions are not “out there” as objects in the environment, but constructed in the hierarchy.
RM: And that is the way I understand controlled perceptions as well; perceptual variables are constructed from the sensory effects of the environmental variables by perceptual functions in the hierarchy.
EdH: I notice that difference when Rick shows his program demo and talks about how we control the perception of a sequence. That suggests to me that we control (inside ourselves) something outside ourselves: a sequence happening on the screen.
RM: Actually, according to the PCT model we control something that is an ASPECT or FUNCTION of something outside ourselves And at the end of the demo you get a record of how well you have controlled that particular aspect of what is outside ourselves (on the computer screen, in this case)
EdH: I’ve understood from Powers’ work is that we have sequence control (a type of control/type of perception), we have program control, we have principle control. It is not control ‘of’ something outside us, but a type of control of perceptions.
RM: When we control a perception we are controlling something that is a function of something in the environment. In the demo you saw, there are several possible functions of the environment that you could control (the environment being the varying display on the screen). You could control the shape (configuration), direction of movement (transition) or the order (sequence) of items that appear on the screen.
EdH: So when I view the demo, and the choices in the demo are made by the program itself (if circle, then blue), without being able myself to make a choice,
RM: The computer is just presenting a set of different configurations of different sizes in varying positions on the screen. You chose whether you will control (by pressing the spacebar when appropriate) the configuration that is displayed (circle vs square), the direction of movement of the configurations (clockwise or counterclockwise) or the sequence of sizes of the configurations (small, medium large or small, large, medium). All of those aspects of the environment are varying all the time; shapes, transitions and sequences are always there on the display. You are in control of the perceptual variable --configuration, transition or sequence – that you control, not the computer.
RM If you haven’t done it, I strongly suggest you do my two demonstrations of control of different types of perceptual variables:
RM: When you read the directions and write ups associated with these demos and do the demos themselves I think you will get a better idea of what is meant by “control of perception”. It doesn’t mean that we control something that exists only in our head. It means we control various “constructed” (by perceptual functions) ASPECTS or FUNCTIONS of the physical environment outside of our nervous systems.
EdH: So with that difference in mind, allow me to explain again what I mean by believing to be system concept level control. I understand believe as ‘experiencing’ something is either true or false. It fits my worldview, or it doesn’t.
RM: I think if you could have described a specific example of what you meant by “believing” we could have thought about where this phenomenon fits into PCT and, then, how to test that idea. Your description here seems to fit into the general imagination capabilities of the control hierarchy. An example might be the experience of a stick bending when placed in water. The experience itself – of a bent stick – is neither true nor false – it just IS, but once you have learned that the bending is an illusion you know (and can “perceive” in imagination) that that perception does not reflect something that is true; the stick is not really bent.
EdeH: So where to go from here?
RM: I think you should (and will) go wherever you want to go from here. I’ll just go on doing my thing, which is to continue trying to try to promulgate PCT by doing and encouraging empirical tests of the PCT model. Without an empirical base I think PCT will continue to wallow on the fringes of scientific psychology. So I’ll try to continue to do what research I can, write papers, give seminars and maybe write another book. If anyone wants to help me out with this then great; if not, that’s fine too.
RM: And I’ll continue to criticize work that purports to be based on PCT to the extent that it comes to my attention. But I’ve never been in the business of trying to sell PCT and I know that there are very few people who agree with (or correctly understand) what I’m doing. So PCT (as I understand it, from my 30+ years of working on it with Bill and ~40 years of doing research on it) may not take off in my or my kids’ or my grandkids’ lifetimes. But it’s a nice way to spend one’s time while one is here. That is, if you don’t have a lot of other activities to occupy your time;-)