S-R & "SALT" - RKC

[From Bob Clark (930528.1545 EDT)

Bill Powers (930518.0800 MDT)

For me to comment on your comments on my post, I guess I have to
repeat my original statements. (930516 @ 20:31 EST)

But there are other significant viewpoints: the experimenter
applies a "disturbance" to the organism, but he thinks 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

Your comment:

The problem with this approach is that it assumes that the
controlled variable is just as evident to the observer as the
disturbance and the response are.

[In your comment, I would prefer "experimenter" to "observer." To me,
the "observer" is a third party "observing" the experimenter
interacting with the subject ("actor" here, if you like).]

I reply:

Not so. It assumes that the experimenter perceives SOME variable,
and the actor perceives SOME OTHER variable. They might be the same,
but as you point out, that generally seems unlikely. The
experimenter, an S-R person, does something to the subject, that he
hopes will have some kind of effect. If it does, he calls his
original act a "stimulus" resulting the effect he observes, the

He doesn't care what the subject is actually controlling -- indeed,
ignoring that question is part of the S-R viewpoint. As long as the
act of the experimenter results in the action of the subject, he is

You further remark:

To the observer it seems that the environmental change constituted a
stimulus, to which the actor responded. There is nothing wrong with
observing that this S-R >relationship holds true.

OK. But, again, I prefer "experimenter" to "observer."

But the impression is that the actor must have been sensing the
disturbed aspect of the environment, while in fact the actor may
have been (and probably still is) sensing and controlling something
quite different from the variable that the observer ("experimenter,"
please) thinks of as the stimulus.

I don't know of any reason to get that impression. The actor is
generally aware of a variety of perceptual variables, more or less
simultaneously, some of which may "over-lap" to some extent with some
of the variables perceived by the experimenter.

You refer to this sequence of events as including an "explanation."
To me it is simply a "description," very abbreviated and simplified.
Useful, perhaps, in some situations.

My "Pass the salt" example has been greatly simplified by omitting
all the rest of the situation: the surroundings, the location of the
salt, the behavior of the companion, what the requester knows about
the companion from past experience, etc etc etc. Of course he
doesn't know the nature of the variables intervening between his
request and the companion's act. He doesn't need to: he receives the
salt! What else?

Same with the pin-using neurologist. He discovers that the tested
portion of the subject's nervous system is intact (or not).
Incomplete, yes, not pertinent in that situation.

Your window-opening experimenter is surely not that lacking in
experience, nor ability to imagine alternatives. Since he is, by
postulate, S-R oriented, he performs several experiments and proceeds
to generalize: that opening a window on a chilly day results in the
subject's finding some way to keep warm. And that still works for
six months and longer.

You close with a truism:

If you tell people only what they want to hear, they will hear
nothing new. In that case, why bother at all?

Apparently you have missed my primary point: an S-R experimenter will
always succeed in finding an S-R description -- he selects the
variables and the interactions such that they fit his expectation,
and ignores all the other variables.

My main suggestion is to BEGIN with terms with which the other party
is familiar and that have also been SELECTED because their associated
concepts are very close to, or are exactly the same as, certain PCT
concepts. One can then point out some additional terminologies and
concepts needed for more complete, accurate and effective

In a recent post, I suggested the term, "control." Widely known in
many situations. Yet the basic concept is that of a negative
feedback control system. This term has some interesting additional
aspects that could bear examination. There are, I find, quite a few
other terms that can be used in a similar manner.

Regards, Bob Clark