[From Dag Forssell (940526 2010)]
A few weeks ago, Avery Andrews mentioned a list called BPR-L,
Business Process Reengineering- L. Reengineering is the current
buzzword in business. This list has grown from a standing start on
March 1, 1994 to 750 subscribers this week. On this list has been
mentioned at least two lists on Total Quality Management, each with
about 700 subscribers. None of the three lists accumulates bytes
at the rate of CSG-L. Plenty of psychobabble is found on each. I
am preparing to introduce myself and PCT to these lists. There are
people from industry, consultants and academics plenty. Below
follows the basic post as it stands. It will be slightly
customized for each list, to refer to recent discussion. Rick
Marken has already been kind to offer suggestions. I feel brave
enough to send this not just to Rick, as was my intent an hour ago,
but to give Tom B., Bill P., and anyone else a chance to blast me
or offer suggestions as their error signals tell them. As always,
I want to be as correct as I can, so I will be able to support
every last statement.
Rick, this is rearranged and cut some since this morning, with
several small modifications. Thanks for your input.
[From Dag Forssell (9405XX XXXX)] Draft
My professional background is that of engineering manager with
marketing responsibility in a manufacturing company. I am now an
I have been interested in TQM, particularly the Deming Management
Philosophy, for several years, but only recently heard of and
joined this list. I have reviewed archive files, and find that
human issues are discussed frequently. This quote says it well:
Loads of research, and plain old common experience,
indicates that the human element is the most critical,
yet hardest to get right, part of any change effort.
Business Process Reengineering is not exempt from this.
-- recent comment on BPR-L.
I have come to believe that the basic reason it is so hard to get
the human element right is that people lack a theory of human
behavior that fits the way human beings work.
This post introduces an emerging science called Perceptual Control
Theory (PCT), that does explain the way human beings work. I think
many of you will find it relevant to the current discussion of fear
and emotions as well as previous comments on the human dimension.
I know from experience as well as PCT that new information that
does not fit the ideas a person already has learned and decided to
believe in is either not comprehended or rejected as a disturbance.
PCT does not fit well with today's predominant understandings.
Therefore, I shall introduce it as clearly as I can, point out the
contrast with current science and offer literature and other
references. Please excuse some redundancies. They are inevitable
when one tries to illustrate the concept several ways, in order to
connect with existing ideas and interests at different levels and
areas of experience. This post is no longer than some conference
announcements, so I won't apologize for length.
I have organized this post under these headings:
Excerpts from a PCT Resource Guide.
Current social science has ignored the purposiveness of human
behavior, considering purpose unscientific. So models of human
nature assume that behavior is an effect that is caused -- by T
external stimuli or internal (mental) events. Perceptual Control H
Theory puts the purpose back into behavior; and it not only keeps A
the science, it shows that you can do better science when you deal N
with the real phenomenon -- purposeful behavior. K
Purposeful behavior is also known as "control" -- it is the process
of producing intended results doing whatever is necessary to make R
these results happen. I
The basic principle of control was introduced into behavioral K
science in the 1940's by Norbert Wiener's book: _Cybernetics or
Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine._
The technical concept of control proved easy to misunderstand.
People interpreting Wiener's presentation using their existing
event-based framework created the impression that control is a step
by step process, internal to the organism. This allowed the
incorporation of cybernetics into the basic cause-effect scheme.
It also allowed the understanding of cybernetics and control theory
to mean control of the organism's actions or output, a
misunderstanding that is widespread to this day.
PCT does not build on Wiener's work, but has been developed
independently based on physics and engineering science and is
testable to the standards of these sciences. -- Meaning
correlations in the high 90's in tests to date.
In the field of social science, with a multitude of verbal
theories, none of which can be tested clearly, it seems customary
to respectfully accept them all. But PCT challenges both the core
assumptions and the conclusions of the well established and widely
quoted social sciences and therefore the expertise and life work of
many famous scientists. Publication in relevant journals has been
resisted by reviewers who dismiss PCT as old hat and without merit.
PCT is presently understood by a rather small group of people.
For this reason, I am posting this introduction where it can be
read by independent thinkers in business, engineering, schools,
homes, -- anyone who is concerned about human relationships and not
satisfied with the psychological and sociological explanations
Those who study the literature and duplicate the experiments will
have to think for themselves. They will find that the new science
of PCT is clear, deep and already quite well tested in simple
experiments. Applications are also developing. Some of the
literature is written for the general public.
Excerpts from a PCT Resource Guide.
Here are pages 1, 2 and 5 of the recently compiled -----------
PCT RESOURCE GUIDE
Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) offers a useful explanation for how
thoughts become actions, results and feelings. This sheds new
light on important issues of leadership, education, economics and
personal relationships in business, society and families. This
guide is intended to allow you to determine your own level of
interest and search out information you want.
LOOK UNDER THE HOOD OR TAKE A TEST RIDE?
If this is your first encounter with PCT, you might think of
yourself and others as experienced with horses when the newfangled
PCT automobile drives into town, introducing a new science and new
possibilities. Some people will stick with the familiar horse,
some will want to kick the tires and learn all about how the engine
works to evaluate the auto, and some will want a test ride.
If you would rather take a test ride first, to get a feel for the
PCT approach to travel, I suggest you go to _Freedom From Stress_
by Edward E. Ford (page 11 and 10). You tour the landscape and
watch Ed drive while he gives you a summary explanation of how a
car works and why he teaches driving the way he does, in an
easy-to-read counseling story that deals with relationships at
work, in marriage, and with children.
To become an expert driver yourself, able to think and deal with
conflict like Ed does in real time, you may want more in-depth
understanding. Proceed to other books and programs listed in this
guide for a more complete education. You might be inspired to
become a PCT engineer yourself, join the Control Systems Group to
do research and find better ways to drive on the many roads of
WHAT PCT IS
Let me explain my view of what PCT (here including the extension
"Hierarchical PCT" (HPCT)) is by relating it to "reverse-
engineering." Suppose you manufacture microelectronic products and
your competitor has just introduced a new and better one. It is
difficult to figure out how the new device was designed, because it
is made up of millions of simple components with intricate
In order to be able to make a fully equivalent device, you decide
to "reverse-engineer" it. This means that you 1) observe what the
device does (how it behaves), and 2) come up with an explanation
for the behavior which leads to a workable design for a circuit (or
more generally, a physical mechanism), which will perform just like
your competitor's device does -- in fact, be the same device.
As a science explaining or "reverse-engineering" human beings,
contemporary psychology has spent most of its time on step 1) and
has tried but failed with step 2). PCT proposes an organization
or model of the nervous system. We can test the PCT model by
letting it behave by itself, and compare the result with the
behavior of the real thing -- people. Tests suggest further
refinement. Since it is ourselves we reverse-engineer, we
naturally require that the explanation and model we come up with
feels right; that it intuitively makes sense to us when we are told
how we work. Multiple tests and personal experience indicate that
PCT is a valid model. PCT appears to be the first approach to step
2) that holds up to critical scientific scrutiny and is worth
PCT IN A NUTSHELL (How the mind works)
The most obvious phenomenon of life is this:
We act to make our WANTS come true.
This phenomenon can be seen in ourselves and all around us all the
time -- ranging from very short to very long time frames:
milliseconds to years.
o You WANT to bend a finger: You bend it.
o You WANT to draw a circle: You pick up a pencil, sharpen it,
place a paper on your desk -- and draw a circle.
o You WANT a college degree: You apply, take classes and tests,
sustain yourself and persevere -- and get your degree.
o You WANT to develop a product: You --, --, --, and the
product is ready.
This phenomenon deserves an explanation. PCT in a nutshell:
You continually _compare_ the mental image or specification of
what you want, your purpose, which we call a _reference
perception,_ with the corresponding mental image of what is,
which we call _present perception._ From this comparison
emerges a _difference signal_ (corresponding to
dissatisfaction) which causes _action_ -- your means to
_influence_ your world and your _present perception_ of it.
Effective action causes this present perception to conform to
the reference perception. Action ceases when your present
perception agrees with your reference perception.
The net result of this circular loop of interacting elements
and signals is purposeful behavior. A self-directing "living
control system" controls its present perception so that it
agrees with the internally specified reference perception. The
living control system shapes its world the way it wants to
perceive it and keeps it that way. When _disturbances_
(external influences, stimuli) affect something the living
control system has a reference perception for, it will act to
restore its perception (resist the disturbance, response).
Conventional scientific attempts to explain behavior have not
recognized or clearly understood the obvious phenomenon of control
discussed above, and are misleading. Behavior is neither just
caused by stimuli in the environment nor is it blind execution of
internal plans. Behavior is not an end result. It is an integral
part of the closed loop process which controls perception. As can
be seen from this summary, the explanation for the phenomenon of
self-direction or control includes an explanation for the appear-
ance of stimulus-response, but without the notion that the organism
is conditioned or reinforced; that the behavior is shaped or that
it is motivated by reward or punishment. It also includes an
explanation for the appearance of plan-execution, but without
suggesting blind computation.
PCT provides the first explanation for this pervasive phenomenon of
control that can stand up to scientific scrutiny. When you
understand the details of this technical explanation, you
understand how autonomous control is synonymous with freedom and
gives rise to conflict or cooperation -- depending on what is
wanted, how it is perceived, by whom and to what degree.
With an understanding of PCT, most of the present day mysteries of
human behavior can be seen for what they are: manifestations of
self-direction or control, given a wide variety of reference
perceptions, present perceptions, circumstances and external
influences in a world where autonomous living control systems
interact. The mysteries simply vanish, and the terminology that
went with them becomes irrelevant.
To drive a car, it is important to know how the controls work, but
it is not necessary to understand how the engine works--you can
leave that to the engineers. To apply PCT in daily life, it is
important to understand the basic concept, but it is not necessary
to understand all the technical details--you can leave that to the
You drive a horse without understanding how the mind of the horse
works. You learn from experience how the horse responds to your
commands, but sometimes it does not respond the way you expect, and
that can be frustrating. The PCT auto is really the same horse
(any living organism or a human being--yourself), but with a
different understanding. When you understand the basic concept of
PCT, you will observe yourself and others and at the same time
visualize the internal mechanism in action. Your understanding of
the internal mechanism gives you greater ability to enjoy your ride
through life and to show others how to enjoy theirs, too.
WHERE PCT COMES FROM
PCT is the creation of one mans background, curiosity and
determination. William T. (Bill) Powers learned about control
systems and analog computers--key for the development of PCT. He
studied physics and other applied physical sciences necessary to
reverse-engineer the human nervous system. Bill's seminal book
_Behavior: The Control of Perception,_ published in 1973, is still
in print and is must reading for the serious PCT student. When you
order it, you will no longer get a jacket, so I have reproduced the
original book jacket on page 3-4. Note comments by Russell L.
Ackoff, Carl R. Rogers, and Thomas S. Kuhn and others. A prolific,
lucid writer, Bill has also collaborated in the creation of a
college text. Page 12.
Seeing how control works is better than reading about it. For
demonstration programs simulating an analog control system on a
digital PC, tutorials, explanations and discussions, see page 10.
In this guide, I have included two short essays: _An essay on the
obvious,_ p. 6-7 and _Things I'd like to say if they didn't think
I'm a nut,_ p. 8. Bill writes about what is required for
psychology to progress as an applied physical science.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Information about the Control Systems Group (CSG) and E-mail
network is included in the Purposeful Leadership introduction book
and the computer disk, page 10.
APPLICATIONS AND LITERATURE
The information on books, articles, seminars, video tapes and
computer disk available should be self-explanatory.
The role of management is to provide leadership and resolve
conflict, but ironically, our common practice of suggesting and
evaluating behavior as we attempt to lead creates conflict instead
of resolving it. PCT explains why.
Behavior is the only thing clearly visible when we look at what
another person is doing. Naturally, it attracts your personal
attention as you grow up and gain experience. That's why it is the
focus of all mainstream contemporary psychological theories, public
debate, and most leadership programs. Unfortunately, this obvious
perspective looks only on the outside. Incomplete and therefore
misleading, it provides little useful insight into what causes
behavior. The many attempted explanations offered in the past have
turned into psychobabble which is now part of our language.
For example, feelings such as fear are an important consideration
in TQM. But the debate among the participants on this net shows
clearly that people have widely divergent opinions about what fear
is, what causes it and what to do about it. Contemporary
psychology has no explanation! The writers of the television show
_Star Trek, The Next Generation,_ have had much fun with this as
the android Commander Data has tried to get an explanation for
anger and other feelings from his human companions. PCT explains
The basic concept of PCT is
that our perceptions are the only reality we can know, and
that the purpose of all our actions is to control the state of
this perceived world.
PCT Resource Guide, p. 3.
From the inside perspective of a living control system, action/
behavior is an automatic result of a comparison between wants and
perceptions. IT IS IN FACT INVISIBLE TO THE CONTROL SYSTEM WHICH
IS ACTING AT THE MOMENT, although it can be visible to other,
parallel perceptual functions. When we realize that people *are*
living control systems, and that action is only a means to an end,
we realize that to focus on behavior has been a fundamental
mistake, and we understand why it is so hard to "learn from
experience" by looking at behavior.
PCT explains how thoughts become actions, results and feelings, and
its principles can be applied to leadership, coaching, team
development, sales, performance reviews, TQM, BPR, vision/mission
statements, strategic planning, -- any activity involving human
motivation and experience. When you understand PCT, you get a
whole new picture of human nature and a new perspective on how to
deal with people. You understand that human behavior is the
control of perception.
Even with the rudimentary summary offered in "PCT in a nutshell,"
above, it is possible to begin to explain feelings. When you
perceive something that is very different from what you specify in
that regard, a large difference signal results. This signal can
give rise to physiological changes through hormonal output
functions -- to release energy for action, for instance. We
experience it as a surge of bodily feeling. Through neural output
functions, it also creates output signals for action, which we can
perceive as thought, even without actually taking action. (One
reason not to take action might be conflicting output signals). We
experience the combination of bodily feeling and thought as
happiness, anger, nervousness etc. From this simple explanation,
it follows that feelings are created by ourselves as a result of
our comparison of mental specifications with current perceptions.
When you understand where your feelings come from, you can deal
with what causes them.
This post has introduced a new way to conceive of behavior.
I think that the situation with numerous established experts
oblivious to, ignoring (and some refusing to publish) the few
proponents of PCT is analogous to the situation with people who had
thoroughly learned the idea and detailed model of how the Sun and
planets circle the Earth once a day and decided to believe in it,
ignoring (and even persecuting) people who proposed the idea and
model that the Earth rotates once a day, while it and the other
planets travel around the Sun.
You cannot tell the difference easily, but the second explanation
has made a big difference for our understanding of the entire solar
system and the development of the science of astronomy. The better
explanation gave a competitive edge to the astronomers who adopted
it, and science started over with the new model. Once you have
been taught, you visualize it and take it for granted. But you
have to be taught, because the explanation is counter-intuitive.
It is hard to tell the difference between the idea that action is
caused by stimuli and the idea that people control what happens to
them. But the second explanation does make a big difference for
our understanding of all human behavior and the development of the
sciences of management. The better explanation will give a
competitive edge to leaders who adopt it. Once you have been
taught, you visualize it and take it for granted. But you have to
be taught, because the explanation is counter-intuitive.
The problem of clearly seeing that the Earth rotates stems in large
part from your position. You are _on_ the Earth, not looking from
_above._ The problem of recognizing a person as a control system
stems also in large part from your position. Even if you are aware
of control systems, you are studying the person from the _outside,_
not from the _inside._
In each case, the first idea seems self-evident. But once you
understand the second idea and its consequences, the first seems
limited and _wrong._
A free 15 page PCT Resource Guide to available books and articles,
educational programs for leaders in industry, teachers and parents,
and DOS computer teaching tools may be obtained by sending a self
addressed, stamped envelope (or your address and two international
reply coupons - one for Canada and Mexico) to: PCT Resource Guide,
23903 Via Flamenco, Valencia, California, 91355-2808 USA.
I hope some readers find this of interest and relevant to BPR-L.
######################################### INSIDE CONTROL SYSTEM #########
# # #
# # reference-want #
# Dag C. Forssell MSME, MBA # perception signal difference #
# Purposeful Leadership(R) # signal |+ signal #
# 23903 Via Flamenco # \ - v = / #
# Valencia CA, 91355-2808 USA # input ----> comparator ---> output #
# # function function #
# Phone (805) 254-1195 # ^ inside brain | #
# Fax (805) 254-7956 # == | ======================== | == #
# firstname.lastname@example.org # | outside brain v #
# # controlled <------------- action #
# Teaching and applying: # variable \influence (muscle) #
# Perceptual Control Theory # ^ / #
# # |<--------- disturbance #
# # #
############################################## OUTSIDE WORLD ###########