[From Rick Marken (2017.03.29.1525)]
RM: I'm changing the name of this thread once again because I think the focus on the behavioral illusion per se misses the point of its importance. The point of the behavioral illusionÂ -- the reason why Bill brought it up in the 1978 Psych Review paper -- is because it explains why psychologists continue to study the behavior of living organisms as though those organisms were purposeless objects. As Bill puts it in the Psych Review paper, psychologists continue to study N-systems (control systems) as though they were Z-systems (causal systems).Â
RM: The behavioral illusionÂ shows that N-systems will appear to behave like Z systems -- systems whose responses are caused by stimuli -- when the variables they are controlling are ignored. An N-system appears to behave like a Z-system when a stimulus (independent variable) has a statistically significant "effect" on its behavior (dependent variable): this is the behavioral illusion.Â
RM: In terms of the technical terms of the Psych Review paper, Powers shows that, when one is dealing with an N- rather than a Z- system, the relationship between an independent (q.d) and dependent (q.o) variable that appears to reflect a causal connection between q.d and q.d via the organism, f(), actually reflects the inverse of the feedback connection, g(), from q.o to the controlled input, q.i. So psychological researchers are studying the causal connection from q.o to q.i, as inÂ
Â Â q.o = g-1[q.i* - h(q.d)] Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â (1)
(where q.i* is the reference state of q.i) rather than what they think they are studying; the (non-existent, in N systems) causal connection, via the organism, from q.d to q.o, as inÂ
Â Â q.o = f[h(q.d)] Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â (2)
RM: Powers says about the comparison of equations 1 and 2 above that it "...reveals a behavioral illusion of such significance that one hesitates to believe it could exist". The reason for the "hesitation" is clear: The "significance" (in the actual English, non-statistical sense) of this behavioral illusion is the implication that, if organisms are, indeed, N- (control) systems, then for the last 70 years (at the time the paper was written, now going on 100 years) scientific psychologists have been studying an illusion. They have been studying an illusory causal connection between independent (q.d) and dependent (q.d) variables when they should have been studying the reason these apparent causal relationships exist; the variables organisms control (q.i). As Bill put it in his Foreword to my book Mind Readings:Experimental Studies of Purpose "..if the phenomenon you see here really works as this model [PCT--RM] shows it to work, then a whole segment of the scientific literature needs to be deposited in the wastebasket." Â Â
RM: So what I would like to do in this thread is first show how the behavioral illusion is involved in some examples of conventional psychological research and, second, try to come up with some ideas for what some PCT based research might look like (some possible research projects for Leeanne?). I did a little of this at the end of my paper "Taking Purpose into Account in Experimental Psychology" which is reprinted as chapter 2 "Doing Research on Purpose"; the relevant discussion is on pp. 49-53.
RM: So let's start with examples of how the behavioral illusion is involved in some examples of conventional research. I can start with one that Bill already analyzed: the shock avoidance experiment. This is an operant conditioning experiment where the independent variable is the seeing of the average interval between shocks (if the rat does nothing) and the dependent variable is the rate of bar pressing (which can prevent the shock). The conventional interpretation of the results is that the average interval between shocks causes (or selects) response rate. The PCT view is that this is an illusion; what is actually happening is that the rats are controlling a perception of the probability of getting shocked, trying to keep that probability at 0.Â
RM: Other ideas are welcome.Â
Richard S. MarkenÂ
"Perfection is achieved not when you have nothing more to add, but when you
have nothing left to take away.â€?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â --Antoine de Saint-Exupery