Review of “Reconstructing Your World View�? by Ba rt Madden

Rick Marken (2014.10.16.1220)]


“Reconstructing Your World Viewâ€? introduces Perceptual
Control Theory (PCT) as one of four “core beliefsâ€? that can help people solve
their business problems. While there is a brief but adequate description of PCT
in Chapter 5 it was never clear to me how PCT was relevant to all the proposed solutions
to the business problems described in the book. Indeed, many of these proposals
seemed to have little to do with an understanding of humans in terms of PCT. One
example of this is the basic premise of the book: that you can solve your
problems by “reconstructing your worldviewâ€?. This is presented as a matter of
disabusing oneself of “faulty assumptionsâ€? so that one can perceive things

One example given in the book of the benefits of disabusing oneself of “faulty
assumptionsâ€? is Walmart’s success due to Sam Walton’s ability to see that the
perception “big stores in small townsâ€? was correct while Kmart’s failure
resulted from its inability to get past the idea that “big stores in big townsâ€?
is correct. But there is nothing in PCT that says that one way of perceiving the
world is more correct than another. The “correctnessâ€? of a perception makes
sense only in terms of whether controlling it achieves the controller’s higher
order goals – all of them. So controlling for “big stores iin small townsâ€? may
have been “correctâ€? for Walton inasmuch as it achieved all of his higher level
goals but controlling that perception may not have been correct for Kmart because
it would not have achieved all of Kmart’s higher level goals.

How you solve problems (from a PCT perspective) depends on the
type of problem you have. A problem, in PCT, is simply an inability to control
a perception you want to control. There are basically two kinds of problems
from a PCT perspective: lack of control due to lack of skill (such as inability
to solve a math problem due to lack of knowledge of the rules of algebra) and
lack of control due to conflict (such as lack of control of eating due to a
conflict between wanting nourishment and wanting to be thin). Tim Carey and I discuss
the difference between these two types of problems and how to solve them in our
recent paper Understanding the Change
Process Involved in Solving Psychological Problems: A Model-Based Approach to
Understanding How Psychotherapy Works
(2014). The solution to both of these types of problems involves
what could be called “reconstructing your worldviewâ€?; but the reconstructing is
quite different in each case. If the problem results from lack of skill then
the solution is education; teaching the person the perceptions to control to
achieve the desired result. If it’s a conflict-based problem then the solution
can only be achieved through reorganization; there is no way to teach the
person the perceptions to control that will achieve the desired result. If the �complex
business problems� addressed in the book are lack of skill problems then they
can be readily solved by simply teaching the correct way to achieve the desired
results. If, however, these problems are conflict-based – as they sseem to be
since they are described as involving resistance to change of “worldviewâ€? – then
the only solution is random reorganization, perhaps assisted by MOL; an outsider cannot tell the person with the problem what the correct solution to their problem is.

PCT is simply a model of how purposeful behavior (control)
works; it supports no particular political point of view or value system. But
it does show what a properly functioning living system is: it’s a system that
is in control. So if one’s idea of a “goodâ€? society is one where everyone is in
control of their lives – that is, if one is controlling for the perrception of a
society made up of individuals who are able to control the perceptions they
need and want to control (as mine is) – then “Reconstructinng Your World Viewâ€? is particularly
disappointing forum for “promulgating PCTâ€?. This is because the book seems to
accept the idea that competition is a good thing; that  "society benefits from business firms competingâ€?. Competition
is just another word for conflict and if PCT teaches us anything it’s that
conflict is the enemy of control. So I think that
an understanding of PCT leads to a very different conclusion about the merits
of competition in society, more like the conclusion so beautifully articulated by
Powers in his paper “Degrees of freedom in social interaction”(
reprinted in LCS I). In particular, see the section on “Freedom in Social
Interactions” (starting on p. 229) for the PCT view of the supposed
benefits of competition in a society.Â


Complementing the lack of understanding of the debilitating
effects of conflict is a lack of understanding of the nature of cooperation.
One of the “Key pointsâ€? at the end of the chapter on PCT is the following: “When
people working together have sharply different high-level goals, conflict is to
be expected. When their high-level goals are similar, expect cooperation.� What
is being described is not necessarily cooperation. If the simultaneous control
of the same perception is simply coincidental then there was no cooperation involved;
it’s just two systems that happen to be controlling the same variable at the same time. Either system could have controlled the variable on its own;
there was no need for the other system to be controlling as well. The only benefit of simultaneous control of the variable is that each system needs to produce less output to produce
the desired result than it would have if it were on its own. This would be an
example of cooperation if the two systems had agreed in advance to control the
same perception so that each would have to expend less effort at controlling it
individually. Cooperation involves two or more control systems achieving a
result that could not be achieved by either system acting on its own. Real
cooperation requires that each system give up some control (give up some “personal freedomâ€?)
in order to achieve control of some variable that the systems involved could
not achieve individually (so that they are all “freerâ€?). Cooperation does not “just
happen� when people adopt (coincidentally) similar goals (although adopting
similar goals can be part of what is agreed to as part of being cooperative).

Cooperation is the basis of civilized human society. And I
think it is the failure to understand the nature of cooperation from a PCT
perspective that I find most problematic about this book. A business is a
cooperative venture between employees and employers. So any problems in the
business are control problems for both employees and employers. But this book
presents PCT as a solution to the problems the employer only (with even the small nod
toward improving “worker satisfactionâ€? being aimed at making business better
for the employer). I find this focus on solving business problems only from the employers perspective to be almost obscene in the context of an economy where over the last 30 years CEO remuneration
has gone from 50 to over 300 times that of the average employee while employee
wages have remained stagnant or actually declined in real terms. Since money is what gives people a great deal of their ability to control (in a society based on specialized production) it’s pretty clear that over the last 30 years the problems of employers have declined considerably while those of their employees have increased substantially. It seems to me that what we need are more
books on how employers can better cooperate with employees to give employees
better control of their lives. Â


Ultimately I think this book suffers from a “worldviewâ€? that
is well described in these quotes from two of my favorite economists:

This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich
and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and
mean condition…[is] the great and most universal cause of the corruption of
our moral sentiments… We frequently see the respectful attentions of the
world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the
wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful
much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent. (Adam Smith,
Theory of Moral Sentiments I.III.28).

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest
exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral
justification for selfishness. John Kenneth Galbraith

I look forward to someday seeing a truly PCT-based book on economics and business. I think it would describe an economy organized a lot more like those of the the Nordic countries than that of the US.Â



Richard S. Marken, Ph.D.
Author of  Doing Research on Purpose.
Now available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble