[From Rick Marken (980427.0930)]
It does seem that many conflicts result from the fact that the
parties to the conflict perceive the same situation differently.
We argue, for example, about whether or not some rat shock
experiments done many years ago involved the Test for the
Controlled Variable. The parties to this conflict seem to see
the same situation (the experiments) quite differently. Let's
assume that they do. Is this the reason for the conflict?
Not according to PCT. If there is a conflict it must be because
the parties want equivalent perceptual representations of the same
variable in different states. In the case of the argument over
the Test, PCT should predict that there would be no argument because
the parties are controlling _different_ perceptual representations
of the same variable (the rat shock experiments). Yet there is an
argument. It seems that the PCT prediction fails.
I think the problem with this analysis is that it provides an
incorrect description of what constitutes the "same variable" in
this situation -- the variable controlled by both parties. The
variable controlled by both parties is not really their perception
of _the rat shock experiments_; that variable cannot be controlled
because it cannot vary; the experiments are a fait accompli; nothing
about them can change. The variable that is actually in contention
in this situation is, I think, something more like "how these rat
shock experiments are described". One party has a reference for
hearing these experiments described as being "like The Test"; the
other party has a reference for hearing these experiments described
as being "unlike The Test". The description of the experiments _is_
a variable; it can change and people can try to control it -- bring
it to the preferred state.
So the conflict is over the same variable: description of the rat
shock experiments. Each party is acting (by yelling louder and
louder on the net) to get this variable in the preferred state.
Of course, it doesn't work becuase the harder each party pushes to
get the description he wants, the harder each party pushes back to
keep the description he wants.
The reason _why_ the parties want this variable (description of the
rat experiments) in different states may have to do with the fact
that they are controlling different perceptual aspects of these
experiments. For example, one party may not want to hear the
experiments described as examples of The Test because this person
perceives these experiments as examples of The Test; the other
person may _not_ want to hear them described as examples of The
Test because this person perceives these experiments as not being
examples of The Test.
But this difference in how a situation is perecived creates no
problem per se. The parties could go on happily perceiving the
rat shock experiments quite differently, with no conflict at all.
Conflict occurs only when the parties want to control equivalent
perceptions of the _same_ variable (description of the rat shock
experiments); in particular, it occurs when they control this
variable relative to different reference levels.