PCT Research Seminar

Dear all

I am thinking of giving another short course on PCT via Zoom. This course would be on how to do PCT-based research – research based on an understanding of the fact that the observed behavior of organisms is organized around the control of perceptual input variables.

I would like to do the course as a seminar where interaction between teacher and students and students and students will be encouraged. This means that the number of participants should be relatively small and that there should be some prerequisites for participation. My current thoughts about this are as follows:

Max Size: 20 participants

Prerequisites: An interest in doing and/or consuming PCT-based research, knowledge of basic concepts of research methodology in behavioral science and at least some familiarity with the PCT approach to doing research.

The seminar will be held as two 1 1/2 hour sessions on Saturday and Sunday, September 12 and 13th, at a time that is as convenient as possible for all participants. This is about one month before the annual IAPCT conference scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Oct 8 and 9. Information about that conference is at http://www.iapct.org/conference.html.

I am hoping that at least some of the participants in this seminar will have done some PCT research so that we can all learn from each other to some extent.

Please let me know as soon as possible if you are interested in participating in this seminar. I will go ahead with the seminar only if I get a minimum of 10 participants. So if you get this announcement and know of someone other than yourself who you think might be interested in such a seminar please forward this to them. As an inducement I will note that this seminar is a $700 value that I am giving away for the low, low price of absolutely nothing (as they used to say on some DVDs of BBC productions).

Be good, be careful, be well and have fun.

Best

Rick

By the way, if you are interested in attending the seminar send me an email (with your email address) at rsmarken@gmail.com

I’m sending this to those currently enrolled as well as those who still might be interested in my PCT Research Seminar.

Dear all

There are currently enough people signed up for the Zoom PCT Research Seminar so I am planning to go ahead with it.

The Seminar will be held as two 1 1/2 hour sessions, one on Saturday, Sept 12 and the other on Sunday, Sept. 13, both at 10am PCT (UTC -7).

Right now I have the minimum number signed up so if anyone else is interested in attending please let me know via email: rsmarken@gmail.com. I will be accepting requests for attendance up until the start of the seminar or until I have accepted the maximum number of attendees (20), whichever comes first.

Here’s my current concept of the seminar:

PCT - based research is psychological research aimed at understanding the purposeful behavior of organisms. Purposeful behavior involves the control of perceptual variables so PCT research is aimed at understanding what perceptual variables organisms control, how they control them, why they control them, how they learn to control them and what happens when they fail to control them.

The basic principles of PCT research were described by William T. Powers as early as 1973 in this book Behavior: The Control of Perception (Chapter 16). Since that time there has been very little research done along the lines described in that book. This is probably because the aims and methods of PCT-based research are quite different than those used in conventional psychological research. The result is that there are few examples of PCT-based research in the literature and no textbooks on how to do PCT-based research (until mine comes out next year;-).

The aim of this seminar is to develop a roadmap for the future of PCT-based research. I will lead the discussion by reviewing the fundamental features of PCT-based research and describing what I think are good examples of such research. But I want the sessions to be very interactive with participants helping to develop ideas about how to pursue a research program based on PCT, like the one described by Powers in his article A Cybernetic Model for research in Human Development which is reprinted in Living Control Systems (pp. 167 - 220).

The main prerequisites for participation in the seminar are familiarity with PCT, some knowledge of the basics of PCT-based research and research methodology in general and an interest in doing (and/or evaluating) PCT-based research.

Best regards

Rick

Dear all

As a result of a misprint (typing PCT when I meant PDT) and new people joining from Down Under I have revised the schedule for the PCT Research Seminar as Follows:

Saturday Sept 12 and Sunday Sept 13

2:00 - 3:30 PM PDT (GMT -7)

Best regards

Rick

Dear all

In order to avoid a conflict with the American Society for Cybernetics Conference I am moving my PCT Research Seminar to Friday and Saturday Sept 18 and 19.

There also will be a change in the time of the Seminar . The Seminar will be held as two 1 1/2 hour sessions starting at 12 pm PDT (UTC -7) both Friday and Saturday. This means that the Friday session starts at 5am Saturday in Australia, 4pm Friday in North Carolina and at 8:pm Friday in London. The Saturday session starts at 5am Sunday in Australia, 4pm Saturday in North Carolina and at 8:pm Saturday in London

I hope this doesn’t inconvenience anyone who is planning to attend. But remember that there will be a video available after the seminar.

There are currently 15 people signed up to be in the seminar. I think that’s a good number but if anyone else wants to be in the seminar please let me know soon. I will stop enrollment at 20 but will keep a waiting list in case people who are enrolled are unable to make it. So if you are enrolled but for some reason are unable to attend the Seminar please let me know ASAP at rsmarken@gmail.com.

I’ll be in touch with everyone who is enrolled at least a week before the Seminar but if you are enrolled please put these new dates and times on your calendar.

Best regards

Rick

Dear all

Apparently I am even worse at time zones than Boris thinks I am at PCT. So here is a corrected time schedule for the PCT Research Seminar; the only change is that the Seminar on the East Coast of the US (North Carolina and Florida) should have been listed as being at 3:00 pm rather than 4:00 pm. Here is the corrected schedule:

The Seminar will be held as 1 1/2 hour sessions starting at 12 pm PDT (UTC -7) on Friday and Saturday, September 18 & 19 . This means that the Friday session starts at 5am Saturday in Australia, 3pm Friday on the East Coast USA, 8pm Friday in London and 9 pm in Belgium and the Netherlands. The Saturday session starts at 5am Sunday in Australia, 3pm Saturday on the East Coast USA, 8pm Saturday in London and 9pm Saturday in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Best

Rick

Hi all,
I just watched the video of Saturday’s session 2 (that I wasn’t able to attend live) and I’d like to share some thoughts on what was presented there.

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.

In my review of the PCT hierarchy (which I will present at the IAPCT conference but a preview can be accessed here - please note that the presentation in its current form is build for a non-pct audience of psychedelic researchers), I think I can make a valid case for believing as a way to control system concept level perceptions.

One thing to discuss, probably, while at this, is that my view of the perceptual levels is in some ways different from what I perceive Rick to understand. I also build on Powers’ work but eventually, we of course end up with our own structure of understanding PCT. The most important difference is that 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.

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.
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. 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, I believe we are still using sequence level control. Only when I press the ‘slow’ button to decrease the speed, I am making a choice and thus using program level control.

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. Or it fits a system concept, or it doesn’t. It fits PCT, or it doesn’t. This is not a rational, pro/con thing, but a matter of something feeling really true.
Rick’s interpretation of my statement about belief didn’t fit his system concept perception of PCT and thus he disregarded it as ‘not very pct-like’. Thus controlling a bunch of other perceptions, and disturbing quite some of mine, but actually showing how belief is how system-concept controlling works.

So where to go from here?
I do believe it is important to study the control hierarchy, in many ways and in different approaches. Through biological, neurological, clinical, technical, AI, theoretical, (…) and philosophical work.

One way to go forward for me is playing around with experiences ‘in the wild’ that people report. In clinical cases, in normal life, in psychedelic experiences and study these perceptions in relation to the hierarchy proposed by Bill Powers.

Best to all,
Eva

Hi Eva

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;-)

Best regards

Rick