[Martin Taylor 920322 2120]
(Bill Powers 920320.1800)
I'm having problems with bad lines and inserted characters again, so be tolerant
of errors, please...
I agree entirely with:
S-R theory is a subset of control theory only in the sense that the control
model explains why particular stimulus-response laws are observed (when
control is in fact present). At the same time, control theory shows that
these laws are illusory; they describe not the organism but its
So there is very little in the S-R behavioral literature that actually
increases our knowledge about the properties of organisms; S-R formulations
are not just somewhat simpler or alternative descriptions of the same thing
that control theory describes. They are, when control is actually present,
misrepresentations of the organization of behavior.
I'm on your side, you know! I was pointing out that when a reference level
is fixed and you apply a disturbance that affects the percept, you get an
error that causes a more or less reproducible behaviour. That looks like
S-R effects if you are predisposed to look at things that way. So if, as
you previously suggested, we do experiments "simply", by fixing reference
levels and looking at things like tracking, then we will have problems
distinguishing the results from those of S-R theorists.
As far as I can see, PCT can predict anything S-R can, but the reverse is
not true. In that sense, S-R is a subset of PCT. It works under very
restricted conditions, or at least it appears to, even when there is real
Actually, on reflection, I disagree with "control theory SHOWS that these
laws are illusory." No theory can show that another is an illusion. Belief
in one theory can lead to a belief that another is illusory, and that belief
is easily generated when one can explain all that the other does, and then
some. But you can't get away with the quoted phrase if you are talking
with someone who is agnostic or of the other faith.
All the same, data obtained by people who believe in S-R can be useful to
PCT theorists, if we acknowledge the relation among reference, perception,
and error in the feedback loop.