Pepinsky to Mary Powers

[Martin Taylor 930824 17:10]
(Hal Pepinsky 24 Aug 1993 13:50:15)


I don't think too many readers have difficulty with constructs that were
developed outside the PCT model. Everyone started there, but as Bill
Powers once said, PCT seems to be a one-way trapdoor. Once you understand
it "in your bones" you can't escape. The details of hierarchic PCT are
largely speculative, and are much argued. What seems to me unarguable
is the basic claim, that all behaviour is for the purpose of controlling
perception. It is surprising how much follows from that simple statement.

As a practicing experimental psychologist for 30+ years, it has been
a revelation to me how this simple statement has enabled me to link
every field of psychology of which I had a little knowledge. Each of them
had their own constructs, developed outside the PCT model. I could see
from the PCT viewpoint how these constructs might actually be meaningful
(or not), but more importantly, I could see how there was no longer a
need to see the different fields as conceptually separate.

Your discussion of the societal addiction to the war on drugs seems an
excellent illustration of the effect of a mechanism I discussed at the
CSG meeting in Durango. I discussed it in the context of explaining
the remarkable stability of language and social convention over periods
of many generations. Quickly: If one is to control one's perceptions
by means of interaction with other people, one must change the perceptual
functions and/or the actions that form the internal part of the feedback
loop whose external part is in the partner, until one's perceptions really
do come under control. (We do much of this learning -- reorganization in
PCT terms -- during the first few years of life.) The partner likewise may
need to change if they are to control their perceptions by interaction with
you. Eventually this system of mutual changes will come to a stable condition
in which each can control their perceptions by means of interactions
with the other.

This stable condition is further stabilized when there are many interacting
pairs, each using the other as part of the feedback loops through which
they control their perceptions. A society develops, with social conventions
that in humans include language and cultural presuppositions. Both language
and convention can change (drift), and the higher-level constructs (the
cultural presuppositions) can change rapidly if they are not leading to
successful interactions with many other people.

In contrast to yours, my mechanism implies no cycles. The changes in
cultural presuppositions can wind up anywhere that is stable (or nearly
so) under the existing environmental conditions.

The "addictions" of which you speak are thus seen as stabilities in a
dynamic of interacting control systems, each of which is attempting to
control its own perceptions. A person (control system) who individually
departs from the addiction will find more difficulty in interacting
effectively with others (will be less able to control his or her perceptions)
than will one who accepts the cultural presupposition and uses it in
developing his or her own lower-level reference signals.