[From Bill Powers (2003.07.05.1915 MDT)]
David Goldstein Saturday, July 05, 2003 1:33 P
I now understand why you want to use a light. I still have a concern
that there may not be enough emotion experienced in this situation by
the person doing the task. It is certainly cleaner from an experimental
We're talking about two different experiments here. The initial subject I
was thinking of was so-called classical conditioning. The light-and-beep
experiment was meant to demonstrate how this phenomenon could be produced
in what we would consider a simple control task. The interesting part of it
was using the beep as a signal that a sudden disturbance was about to
occur, so the controller could time the action that would correct it.
Omitting the light-disturbance on occasional trials would then illustrate
what is interpreted under classical conditioning theory as a conditioned
response. Many variations on the same theme could be used -- for example,
the disturbance might be a sudden step added to the position of a cursor
that is being kept near a moving or stationary target with the usual
smoothed disturbance acting in the background. It would be interesting to
see just what the person would learn to do. I wouldn't expect much
emotional feeling in this experiment because you don't need to be in any
special state of preparedness to carry it out -- at least not a pronounced
enough state to count as an emotion, unless just doing a computer task is
traumatic by itself.
The second kind of experiment is one that is supposed to elicit emotions.
To get significant emotions, according to my theory, we have to involve the
person in a task that requires a significant change of state to carry it out.
We would be trying to reproduce the situation Bruce G. described, where
normal control is going on, but some change in the situation suddenly
results in a very large error so the person will have to produce a large
effort to correct it quickly enough. The sudden large error should produce
the surge of adrenaline, elevated respiration and heart rate, and so forth
that we associated with the feeling side of emotion (especially if the
controls stop working just at that instant!). I don't have a specific
experiment in mind yet, but the general idea would be to make control
increasingly difficulty so the person is really trying quite hard to
maintain control, and then suddenly to do something that creates a much
larger error. One possibility that comes to mind is to reverse the feedback
as in the experiment Rick and I did. Another would be to introduce a
conflict. And of course we could simply use an unusually large and sudden
That sort of experiment might be able to make use of your biofeedback
equipment. But thinking up an elegant experiment will take some pondering.
What is the explanation for the generalization that occurs in trauma
situation.? Are you saying that driving in a car, being in an elevator,
being near someone who smokes, etc. all result in the "never again"
control system having an error in it that accounts for the emotional
So, we are dealing with a situation in which any aspect of
the trauma experience results in the "never again" control system having
an error signal in it.
I wasn't thinking of a literal "never-again control system." I just meant
that if you want strongly to keep a perception from occurring, you will try
to keep it from occuring any time you encounter it. There's no need for a
special process of "generalization." Just think of all the perceptions you
wanted desperately to control in that airplane. I'm suggesting that you set
reference levels for some of them at that time, and those reference levels
persisted, so that when the same perceptions come up again, you're already
set up to avoid them (and feel the physiological preparations for avoiding
them). I'm just looking for the simplest, least spooky, way of
understanding why you would continue to fear, for example, confined spaces.
Of course you mustn't forget that that incident may not have been your
first experience with wanting to get out of such a situation (what came to