S-R/PCT - RKC

[From Bob Clark (930516.2100 EDT)

Bill Powers (930514.0700 MDT)

You begin by quoting my paragraph:

In any situation where the Reference Level is essentially
constant, the system can be described in S-R terms.

You observe:

The S-R appearance of behavior does, in its purest form, require a
constant reference level as you say. When the reference level
varies normally, the S-R appearance becomes statistical, etc.

True, in broad-brush terms. But with attention limited to a single
perceptual variable, the S-R view requires a constant ref level
during that description. It breaks down, as you note, to some kind
of statistical description when the ref level is changing.

Later:

the appearance of a stimulus-response relationship still involves a
misidentification: seeing a disturbing variable as the stimulus that
the organism is sensing.

It seems to me that we are here dealing with shifting viewpoints:
your's appears to be the Engineering View, and I agree with that
description. But there are other significant viewpoints: the
experimenter applies a "disturbance" to the organism, but he thinks of
of it as a "stimulus." It was his decision, and his act, intended to
control some set of his internal perceptual variables. To him, it is
("merely") a matter of terminology. On the short time scale he (still
the experimenter) has chosen, the subject's ref level has not changed.
Thus the experimenter observes the subject's action to control his
(the subject's) perceptual variable, and calls it a "response" instead
of "preventing the controlled variable from changing.

Changing viewpoints can make a great deal of difference in the
selection of descriptive language. This, I know, has been remarked
repeatedly (the blind men and the elephant, etc), but still it
happens. The only answer I know of, is to define and specify the
points of view in use.

Again:

I felt that your paragraph above gave the impression that keeping
reference levels constant is the only requirement for interpreting
behavior as a response to a stimulus.

To me, it is very nearly the reverse: If behavior is interpreted as
S-R, it implies that the rev level was somehow kept very nearly
constant for the duration of the "behavior" described. One of the
easiest, and least obvious, ways to restrict changes in the ref level
is to select a time scale for observation that is too short for much
change in ref level. Another way is to give the subject special
instructions: "Please keep your arm _firmly_ straight out etc"
(Portable Demonstrator, First Order instructions.) [I once failed to
emphasize the equivalent of _firmly_ and the subject followed my
"push" with minimal return to the original position. He apparently
accepted my "push" as a form of "instruction" and moved his arm
accordingly.]

My primary point in all this, is that an S-R advocate can select the
observations by seeking something _he_ can refer to as a "stimulus"
followed by (note the time scale) something else _he_ can refer to as
a "response." He is using his own, selected, viewpoint, and he
rejects the PCT Engineering Viewpoint _because_ it conflicts with
his, pre-selected, S-R Experimenter's Viewpoint.

Salt-shaker example:
I tried to greatly condense the situation, using the "User's"
Viewpoint. Perhaps this should have been pointed out, but I thought
such an ordinary experience would turn the reader's attention to his
own memory of similar events together with their resolution. Of
course, your more complete, engineering viewpoint is correct -- but
most people seem to skip over these details. To the User, the "lack
of saltiness" can be described in terms of the perceptual variable,
"saltiness," which differs from the related ref level. This
difference arouses memories of possible ways to correct the
situation. Selection of memories needed to operate the required
systems is followed by their activation. Much simpler, to call it a
"stimulus" leading to prompt correction of the "saltiness" variable.
Certainly the S-R description is ridiculously condensed -- but then
the engineering description is much too complex and detailed for
ordinary use in ordinary situations.

Further, salt shaker, in my 930513 Post, I suggested an alternative:
"If I can't reach the shaker, 'Please pass the salt.'"

The User easily regards this as "Issuing a Stimulus" to my companion.
It could, equally, be regarded as "Acting to Disturb" my companion,
followed by "Presenting a Request," or any of several other
equivalent actions. To the User, this ends up with the passing of
the salt which may choose to call a "Response." The User is
ordinarily quite uninterested in the events within the Companion.

To describe the all these events from the Engineering Viewpoint is
quite complex and not needed by the User.

When dealing with "real people" in ordinary situations, I not only
avoid detailed "engineering descriptions" but also S-R descriptions.
Instead I tend to use "Cause/Effect" language, or whatever language
my friend prefers. Otherwise, my audience disappears with incredible
speed, approaching Warp Ten at times!

Regards, Bob Clark