questions about emotions and the will

Bill, Rick, or ?
I have taught the basics of PCT, applied it in my own life, and tried to help others with it, but in light of some of my fresh thinking on it these days, a few of the things that have bothered me previously have come up. In particular, the mechanical and seemingly automatic nature of the model. When I think of humans, from my experience and from classical literature, I find myself wondering about the place of the will or volition and also emotion. What PCT would say about the human free will (a plausible example might help also) and my second question is whether the place for emotions, as has been articulated in the theory, ever been actually confirmed.
Thanks

[From Rick Marken (2003.03.23.0820)]

Tom Hancock wrote:

Bill, Rick, or ?
I have taught the basics of PCT, applied it in my own life, and tried to help others with it, but in light of some of my fresh thinking on it these days, a few of the things that have bothered me previously have come up. In particular, the mechanical and seemingly automatic nature of the model. When I think of humans, from my experience and from classical literature, I find myself wondering about the place of the will or volition and also emotion. What PCT would say about the human free will (a plausible example might help also) and my second question is whether the place for emotions, as has been articulated in the theory, ever been actually confirmed.

Re: your first question, I recommend the brief discussion of "Awareness, Consciousness and Volition" (staring on p. 197) in B:CP, as a good place to start looking for an answer. Re: your second question, I highly recommend the "Emotion" chapter (starting on p. 31) in Living Control Systems II.

Best regards

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken
MindReadings.com
marken@mindreadings.com
310 474-0313

Thanks for the references. I intend to read them carefully when my time commitments permit coming back to PCT--hopefully late next Fall.

Rick, it has been my experience (supported in my readings for over 30 years along this line) that emotions can take the lead in a person. That is, people do things, seemingly led by what they feel. Often this is in stark contrast to what they believe at the highest levels. At these times people are out of control: they end up confused or in jail or committing suicide etc. realizing that in spite of their often high ideals and noble desires that they just cannot live the way they want. If you feel the readings you referenced willl address these things, then good enough. But if not (of if you care to) could you pass on your impressions about my thoughts/feelings along these lines as it relates to PCT and your own life experience.

Thanks.

···

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Marken [mailto:marken@MINDREADINGS.COM]
Sent: Sun 3/23/2003 8:19 AM
To: CSGNET@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU
Cc:
Subject: Re: questions about emotions and the will

  [From Rick Marken (2003.03.23.0820)]
  
  Tom Hancock wrote:
  
  > Bill, Rick, or ?
  > I have taught the basics of PCT, applied it in my own life, and tried to help others with it, but in light of some of my fresh thinking on it these days, a few of the things that have bothered me previously have come up. In particular, the mechanical and seemingly automatic nature of the model. When I think of humans, from my experience and from classical literature, I find myself wondering about the place of the will or volition and also emotion. What PCT would say about the human free will (a plausible example might help also) and my second question is whether the place for emotions, as has been articulated in the theory, ever been actually confirmed.
  
  Re: your first question, I recommend the brief discussion of "Awareness, Consciousness and Volition" (staring on p. 197) in B:CP, as a good place to start looking for an answer. Re: your second question, I highly recommend the "Emotion" chapter (starting on p. 31) in Living Control Systems II.
  
  Best regards
  
  Rick
  --
  Richard S. Marken
  MindReadings.com
  marken@mindreadings.com
  310 474-0313

so it goes...the spirit is strong but the flesh is weak
Paule A. Steichen. Asch, Ph.D.
IBIS Int'l
Individual Building of Integrated Success
2101 Grandin Road
Cincinnati OH 45208
voicemail: (513) 289-5998
fax: (513) 871-soul/7685
pasteichenasch@fuse.net

···

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tom Hancock" <thancock@GEORGEFOX.EDU>
To: <CSGNET@listserv.uiuc.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 9:54 AM
Subject: Re: questions about emotions and the will

Thanks for the references. I intend to read them carefully when my time

commitments permit coming back to PCT--hopefully late next Fall.

Rick, it has been my experience (supported in my readings for over 30

years along this line) that emotions can take the lead in a person. That is,
people do things, seemingly led by what they feel. Often this is in stark
contrast to what they believe at the highest levels. At these times people
are out of control: they end up confused or in jail or committing suicide
etc. realizing that in spite of their often high ideals and noble desires
that they just cannot live the way they want. If you feel the readings you
referenced willl address these things, then good enough. But if not (of if
you care to) could you pass on your impressions about my thoughts/feelings
along these lines as it relates to PCT and your own life experience.

Thanks.

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Marken [mailto:marken@MINDREADINGS.COM]
Sent: Sun 3/23/2003 8:19 AM
To: CSGNET@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU
Cc:
Subject: Re: questions about emotions and the will

[From Rick Marken (2003.03.23.0820)]

Tom Hancock wrote:

> Bill, Rick, or ?
> I have taught the basics of PCT, applied it in my own life, and tried to

help others with it, but in light of some of my fresh thinking on it these
days, a few of the things that have bothered me previously have come up. In
particular, the mechanical and seemingly automatic nature of the model. When
I think of humans, from my experience and from classical literature, I find
myself wondering about the place of the will or volition and also emotion.
What PCT would say about the human free will (a plausible example might help
also) and my second question is whether the place for emotions, as has been
articulated in the theory, ever been actually confirmed.

Re: your first question, I recommend the brief discussion of "Awareness,

Consciousness and Volition" (staring on p. 197) in B:CP, as a good place to
start looking for an answer. Re: your second question, I highly recommend
the "Emotion" chapter (starting on p. 31) in Living Control Systems II.

Best regards

Rick
--
Richard S. Marken
MindReadings.com
marken@mindreadings.com
310 474-0313

[From Rick Marken (2003.03.26.1200)]

Tom Hancock wrote:

Rick, it has been my experience (supported in my
readings for over 30 years along this line) that emotions
can take the lead in a person. That is, people do things,
seemingly led by what they feel. ...could you pass on your
impressions about my thoughts/feelings along these lines
as it relates to PCT and your own life experience.

My life experience has been quite the opposite of yours. In my life, emotions have followed rather than taken the lead. My emotions either follow a difficult disappointment -- such as when what I experience is not what I wanted to experience -- or they follow a happy success -- such as when what I experience suddenly becomes what I wanted to experience.

So my experiences with emotion (and I have had plenty) has been more in accord with the PCT explanation of emotion, as a side effect of failed or successful control. I've never thought of my feelings as being what led me to act. I act in order to control my perceptions. I don't like having intense negative emotions any more than anyone, probably. But I don't think of myself as acting in order to get rid of such emotions when I have them. What I really want when I feel bad is for the perception that is away from the reference to get back to the reference. Sometimes making this happen -- bringing the perception back to the reference -- is impossible, as with the death of a loved one or the breakup of a relationship. But what "takes
the lead" for me in such situations is the discrepancy between perception and goal. The emotion is kind of redundant -- not only did my girlfriend leave me but I also have to feel bad about it. Damn.

Best regards

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken, Ph.D.
Senior Behavioral Scientist
The RAND Corporation
PO Box 2138
1700 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
Tel: 310-393-0411 x7971
Fax: 310-451-7018
E-mail: rmarken@rand.org

You say "emotions have followed...etc...". I you allow me to come in and out
of your wonderful discussion, is the issue not precisely that: WHETHER OR
NOT we BELIEVE that emotions govern actions or vice-versa?
By the way shall we make a difference between emotions and
feelings...like...emotion is an arousal state...feelings is a labeling of
the emotions, also based on our memory bank?...
As an analogy, has it not happened to you to touch cold/hot water and to
think for a while that it was the opposite: hot or cold, when in reality it
was cold or hot?
anyways...I am but a small potato here...thank you for teaching us
Paule A. Steichen. Asch, Ph.D.
IBIS Int'l
Individual Building of Integrated Success
2101 Grandin Road
Cincinnati OH 45208
voicemail: (513) 289-5998
fax: (513) 871-soul/7685
pasteichenasch@fuse.net

···

----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard Marken" <marken@MINDREADINGS.COM>
To: <CSGNET@listserv.uiuc.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 12:00 PM
Subject: Re: questions about emotions and the will

[From Rick Marken (2003.03.26.1200)]

Tom Hancock wrote:

> Rick, it has been my experience (supported in my
> readings for over 30 years along this line) that emotions
> can take the lead in a person. That is, people do things,
> seemingly led by what they feel. ...could you pass on your
> impressions about my thoughts/feelings along these lines
> as it relates to PCT and your own life experience.

My life experience has been quite the opposite of yours. In my life,

emotions have followed rather than taken the lead. My emotions either
follow a difficult disappointment -- such as when what I experience is not
what I wanted to experience -- or they follow a happy success -- such as
when what I experience suddenly becomes what I wanted to experience.

So my experiences with emotion (and I have had plenty) has been more in

accord with the PCT explanation of emotion, as a side effect of failed or
successful control. I've never thought of my feelings as being what led me
to act. I act in order to control my perceptions. I don't like having
intense negative emotions any more than anyone, probably. But I don't think
of myself as acting in order to get rid of such emotions when I have them.
What I really want when I feel bad is for the perception that is away from
the reference to get back to the reference. Sometimes making this happen --
bringing the perception back to the reference -- is impossible, as with the
death of a loved one or the breakup of a relationship. But what "takes

the lead" for me in such situations is the discrepancy between perception

and goal. The emotion is kind of redundant -- not only did my girlfriend
leave me but I also have to feel bad about it. Damn.

Best regards

Rick
--
Richard S. Marken, Ph.D.
Senior Behavioral Scientist
The RAND Corporation
PO Box 2138
1700 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
Tel: 310-393-0411 x7971
Fax: 310-451-7018
E-mail: rmarken@rand.org

[From Bruce Gregory (2003.0327.1506)]

Rick Marken (2003.03.26.1200)

So my experiences with emotion (and I have had plenty) has been more
in accord with the PCT explanation of emotion, as a side effect of
failed or successful control.

That's my understanding of the PCT view as well. But as you can see,
Bill does not agree with us.

[From Bill Powers (2003.03.27.1619 MST)]

Bruce Gregory (2003.0327.1506)]

Rick Marken (2003.03.26.1200)

So my experiences with emotion (and I have had plenty) has been more
in accord with the PCT explanation of emotion, as a side effect of
failed or successful control.

That's my understanding of the PCT view as well. But as you can see,
Bill does not agree with us.

My picture of an emotion ( See LCS) is that it consists of a
cognitive/behavioral control processes plus perceptions of altered
physiological states (sensed as "feelings") that exist to support motor
behavior and perhaps neural functions too. As errors rise and decline, so
do the perceptions of these changes in cognitive and bodily states. Higher
systems, when they experience error, alter two major sets of reference
signals at lower levels: those that govern overt action, and those that set
the reference levels of all the biochemical life-support systems. Failed
higher-level control, of course, produces the largest errors of all, and
conflict, which prevents even trying to correct errors, leaves the state of
physiological preparedness undiminished, so the emotion persists.

There are also changes we interpret as beneficial, among them being the
diminution of errors. Since we don't go around feeling those "good" states
all the time, it seems likely that only the largest such changes qualify as
"good" emotions, although all emotions exist on a scale from mild to
intense. There are also some bodily sensations which apparently have
occasionally high intrinsic reference levels, and we experience those
sensations as pleasurable because we become organized to seek them.
However, the reference levels are often transient, so that what was
experienced as good while a sensation was increasing towared the goal state
becomes excessive and even unpleasant if experienced for too long, when the
reference level has been reset to a low value. There's nothing like a
marvellous meal to spoil the appetite.

I am not saying that emotions are "only" goals plus feelings. I am saying
that goals and feelings of physiological states together constitute exactly
the emotions we do feel, with whatever importance we give to errors and our
attempts to correct them. I would say, however, that they are more than
"side-effects," because they are an inherent part of living in a body with
physiological states we continuously sense, and which must act in order for
us to achieve any goals at all, minor or major, low-order or high-order.

I do think that some people, as Tom Hancock suggested, become organized to
give the experiences of emotional feelings a high importance in their
lives, while others focus more on the cognitive aspects -- feeling the
feelings, but not giving them more importance than the other perceptions
involved.

Others, of course, have theorized very differently about emotions, giving
them what seems an independent sort of intelligence (and their own
perceptual systems to go with it, as well as goals and means of action). I
haven't found such conjectures convincing.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory 92003.0327.2040)]

Bill Powers (2003.03.27.1619 MST)

Higher
systems, when they experience error, alter two major sets of reference
signals at lower levels: those that govern overt action, and those that set
the reference levels of all the biochemical life-support systems.

I have never heard this before (which doesn't mean that you didn't say
it). Where is the mechanism by which higher level systems set the
reference levels of all the biochemical life-support systems described?

···

--
Bruce Gregory lives with the poet and painter Gray Jacobik in the future
Canadian Province of New England.

www.joincanadanow.org

[From Bill Powers (2003.03.27.1948 MST)]

Bruce Gregory 92003.0327.2040)--

Bill Powers (2003.03.27.1619 MST)

Higher
systems, when they experience error, alter two major sets of reference
signals at lower levels: those that govern overt action, and those that set
the reference levels of all the biochemical life-support systems.

I have never heard this before (which doesn't mean that you didn't say
it). Where is the mechanism by which higher level systems set the
reference levels of all the biochemical life-support systems described?

There are several routes, but I am not the expert to ask for the
authoritative version. I believe that signals come from midbrain structures
and the amygdala to the hypothalamus which, in turn, sends signals to the
"neurohypophysis", the neural half of the pituitary gland. The signals are
a strange mix of neural and chemical; the neurons, as I understand it, also
act as conduits for biochemical substances that enter into the chemical
workings of the pituitary, sort of like neurotransmitters except that
purely chemical systems are on the receiving end. My guess is that those
substances operate as reference signals. It looks as though the split
between behavioral and biochemical hierarchies occurs somewhere in the
midbrain levels, maybe the configuration level (3).

It's pretty sure that the reference signal for thyroxin concentration,
maintained by the pituitary-thyroid control loop, is set in this way by
some system in the hypothalamus. And there are many other similar signals
entering control loops in the pituitary, involving every major organ. I
wish that (a) I were a biochemist or specialist in internal medicine, or
(b) could afford to buy or rent one. then I would be more sure of the
details. See Myrsovski's "Homeorhesis" for more details on how the brain
varies reference signals for so-called homeo"static" systems. Also check
out "endocrine system" and "pituitary gland" via Google. A lot is known,
but nobody has put it all together that I know of.

There are also pathways like the vagus nerve (heart, respiration?) and the
autonomic nervous system. The brain is pretty throughly equipped with both
sensors of internal variables and signals that go outward to adjust or
command biochemical systems. This is how, I have theorized, the brain
creates the feeling aspect of what we call emotions. Am I right? Someone
else will have to say. The picture seems to fit my experience, is all I can
say.

Best,

Bill P.

From Fred Nickols (2003.28.0632 ET)] --

Bruce Gregory 92003.0327.2040)]

Bill Powers (2003.03.27.1619 MST)

Higher
systems, when they experience error, alter two major sets of reference
signals at lower levels: those that govern overt action, and those that set
the reference levels of all the biochemical life-support systems.

Bruce Gregory 92003.0327.2040)]

I have never heard this before (which doesn't mean that you didn't say
it). Where is the mechanism by which higher level systems set the
reference levels of all the biochemical life-support systems described?

Bill: I have a slightly different question than Bruce. I am assuming your
statement about higher systems altering reference signals for over action
and for all of the bio-chemical life-support systems refers to what I see
as a "cascading" effect down the hierarchy. In other words, higher systems
alter the reference signals for the next lower level and so on. Is that
correct or are you saying, as Bruce seems to be asking, that higher systems
directly alter reference signals for all levels below them? Just checking
to make sure I understand.

Fred Nickols
nickols@safe-t.net
www.nickols.us

[From Bill Powers (2003.03.28.1103 MST)]

Fred Nickols (2003.28.0632 ET)] --

>I am assuming your

statement about higher systems altering reference signals for over action
and for all of the bio-chemical life-support systems refers to what I see
as a "cascading" effect down the hierarchy. In other words, higher systems
alter the reference signals for the next lower level and so on. Is that
correct ...

Yes, that's what I mean. As far as I can tell, the branch occurs somewhere
in the midbrain, about where I think many configuration systems are. Don't
hold me to that -- find a brain-function guru.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Tom Hancock (2003.03.28.2015)]
Rick Marken (2003.03.26.1200)

Rick wrote:
My life experience has been quite the opposite of yours. In my life, emotions have followed rather than taken the lead. My emotions either follow a difficult disappointment -- such as when what I experience is not what I wanted to experience -- or they follow a happy success -- such as when what I experience suddenly becomes what I wanted to experience.

Tom:
You are perhaps a person who has self-control more than most! Do you ever feel just flat or bored but soon are found happier when in a jacuzzi or doing chores? One explanation might be found with the associated control systems. But I wonder if an alternative here is more parsimonious. Anyway Rick, when I think emotions, I include feelings, as you describe above, but also desires and affections. Of course, they come in varying quantities together. However, thinking structurally, it is the desire and affection aspects of emotions that seem to take us for rides at times. You, too? I have found that they can cloud reasoned thinking and be traced forward to regrettable actions. (However, I'm not sure the life of the Stoic is particularly fitting for most!) I guess it is those parts of our humanity that just don't sit well with me in a PCT structure.

[From Bill Powers (2003.03.29.0931 MST)]

Tom Hancock (2003.03.28.2015)--
>I include feelings, as you describe above, but also desires and
affections. Of course, >they come in varying quantities together. However,
thinking structurally, it is the >desire and affection aspects of emotions
that seem to take us for rides at times. You, >too? I have found that they
can cloud reasoned thinking and be traced forward to >regrettable actions.
(However, I'm not sure the life of the Stoic is particularly >fitting for
most!) I guess it is those parts of our humanity that just don't sit
well >with me in a PCT structure.

I'm curious, Tom, as to why you don't see desires and affections as
resulting from the operation of control systems.

Best,

Bill P.