Science or what?

[From Dick Robertson] (980306.1825CDT)
I want to join Izaak, Bruce Gregory and several others on the net recently to
state my dismay over the amount of time that seems to me wasted on purely
verbal arguments about some fine (and some not so fine) points in understanding
PCT. (Actually, at first I was going to say, "Izaak's post triggered me into
action," -- how deeply entrenched the Cartesian paradigm is in our turns of
speech, ways of communicating, etc!!!)

Bill Powers (980301.0921 MST)

Bruce Gregory (980301.0527 EST)]
Isn't this starting to sound a bit like scholasticism?

The last time I looked up "scholasticism" in the dictionary it
said, "See CSGnet." This net has become the embodiment of
scholasticism. Vastly more bandwidth is devoted to the "meaning"
of the models than to how well the models explain the data and
what data the models need to explain.

I can appreciate the questions that come from newly interested netters posting
their understandings as means of getting confirmation/disconfirmation of
particular points as a way of refining knowledge. But, I'm puzzled by the
amount of time devoted to verbal debates by old hands on CSGNET. The trouble
with verbal debates is the ambiguity of language, the way premises can be
shifted so gradually and so subtly, that even the perpetrator can continue
thinking he has not altered his position. Isn't that why science grew with
mathematics and modeling as its chief instrumentalities?

I wonder whether we haven't reached a point where Bill, Rick and others ought
to save some of your posts in a special file called, "generic refutations," or
the like, and when some, "same old issue" crops up again, hit the reply button
and hit Macro A, B, or C, etc., as applies and get on with it?

You want illustrations? Consider the following, note the date carefully

Subject: Collecting data about behavioral regularities
[From Bill Powers (930418.0900)]

Ken Hacker (930418) --

You recently described how social and behavioral scientists
amass findings about behavioral regularities and how PCT
scientists develop first principles about human behavior. I
believe you are right, but I do not agree with the implication
that there is anything wrong with collecting data about
behavioral regularities.

Before I talk about collecting data, let's make the "first principles" claim
clearer...When I say that PCT applies to all behavior all of the time, with no
exceptions, I'm trying to convey the KIND of theory it is,...I'm trying to say
that a principle like control of perception isn't meant to apply only to a
certain population under certain conditions, and only to some unspecifiable
set of people within that population. If it's true, it never stops being true

The only comparable theory in psychology is stimulus-response theory which,
regardless of semantic quibbles, is still the primary theory of behavior in
the life sciences...There are very few psychologists today who would admit to
being S-R psychologists....I have had psychologists tell me that of course S-R
theory is dead -- everyone now knows that the correct theory is S-O-R,...
Skinnerians do not consider themselves S-R psychologists...But if you ask any
of them what, in the final analysis, determines the way organisms behave, they
are very firm about the only proper answer: the environment.
Water deprivation causes drinking, not thirst...

the fact is that those who do experiments under this methodology believe that
if it were not for the treatment A, the change in behavior B would not have
happened....Now let's talk about "collecting data about behavioral
regularities."

The regularities the behavioral scientist is interested in are those that can
be seen as consequences or influences of some antecedent event or situation.

So with that understanding, how would we go about gathering data
about behavioral regularities?...

when the PCT researcher and the S-R researcher look at a particular behavior,

they see different things. The S-R researcher sees an act like answering a
question as a response, something that comes out of the organism as a result
of a question that went into the organism.

There is more, much more.

Now let's come up to the present

[from Jeff Vancouver 980304.0900 EST]

[From Rick Marken (980303.1205)

So I guess you're going to press ahead with the cause-effect
approach to studying control. Wonderful. Thanks.

Something like that, I hope this is my last post on the subject though.

There are two perceptions that I am attempting to control related to my
flurry of activity on this net beginning from the anti-valentine post.
First, I am interested in promoting PCT. I believe it has much to offer in
our understanding of human behavior. I think psychology should adopt it as
the paradigm for the study of humans. Recognizing that psychology is a
science and that communities of people define a science, it is important to
me that we "convert" more and more psychologists to see the merits of PCT.
So the answer to Bill's question about why he should care about what those
how [sic] disagree with him think, is because they are the ones that need to
be converted.

JEFF--I find myself having powerful feelings of empathy, sympathy, cynical
amusement, and sadness, for you. I think you are launched on a quest similar
to one I was on thirty years ago. Take a look at my farewell to my department
in 1993

From: Dick Robertson
.To: Psych Department, NEIU
Date: 5/12/93

Thanks for the Goodbye card, it was cute...

That brings me to a request I have right now. As some of you know, my career
in the department has been a rather bittersweet experience. When I first came
here in 1967 I was all fired up to introduce the world of psychology to the
revolutionary way of understanding behavior that I had just learned about. It
never happened. In fact the group of researchers and psyc-appliers, of which
I was a founding member, still have great difficulty getting past all the
gate-keepers of the journals where we would hope to speak to young
psychologists. Right now we are collectively trying to find out why.

- NOW HERE IS MY REQUEST. Would you answer the following list of questions
pertaining to the attached five page article?

[Here I reprinted Bill Powers's "Perceptual Control Theory: an idea before its
time?" I think from the 1992 CSG conference]

I believe that your answers will help give a sample of how professional
psychologists in general view the paradigm controversy that is involved -- and
will help us understand how to approach the major journals.

          (1-Strongly disagree) (2-disagree) (3-agree) (4-strongly agree)

1) I didn't know this was an issue........................ ( 1 2 3 4 )
2) My work is not really concerned with basic paradigms... ( 1 2 3 4 )
3) The issue as described here sounds interesting......... ( 1 2 3 4 )
4) I'm more concerned with usable facts and don't believe

    any basic theory in psychology is useful to me yet..... ( 1 2 3 4 )

5) I find the issue so intriguing I'd like to know more... ( 1 2 3 4 )
6) In principle I'd like to know more, but I'm too busy... ( 1 2 3 4 )
7) Despite what Powers says here I don't think there is a

    real conflict between the traditional and the new view..( 1 2 3 4 )

8) I see PCT as having limited value in percep-motor and

    neuro-psych areas, but S-O-R still has a future for me..( 1 2 3 4 )

(please tear off this page and put back in my box - Thanks in advance)

I think I still have the reports somewhere, but I can't find them, so my memory
will have to do. A little more than half of my colleagues sent me their
replies. I believe the commonest answer to #1 was (3); ca to #2 - (4); ca to
#3 - (3); ca to #4 - (4); ca to #5 - (2); ca to #6 - (4); ca to #7 - (3);
ca to #7 - (8).

Back to another of your posts Jeff (I lost the dateline)

The second perception that I am attempting to control, I think, is that I
am respected.

First, GOOD FOR YOU, next consider this rephrasing and tell me if it seems to
say the same as what you said, or something different? "The second perception
that I am attempting to control, I think, is my self-image as a person who is
respected."? If you buy this one tentatively, you might set up for yourself
the question, What observations satisfy my desire to be perceived as respected?

You have already stated the negative side,

Again, to help Rick with his test of me, when you say "you are a CPer" I
hear "you are an idiot" simply because you are saying it. It is like a
Texan calling you a New Yorker

Notice the, "I hear...." Do you have a choice, or is your hearing here like an
"eyeblink reflex?"

Back to why I proposed a rephrase of,

The second perception that I am attempting to control, I think, is that I
am respected.

I have to tell you that that way of saying it leaves me confused as to whether
you think you are in control of whether you are respected, or Rick is, and if
the latter, how are you going to control that?

OK enough of that, but as you say,

This is much more personal. Although as Rick points out, nearly everyone is
probably trying to control this to some extent,...

Thus, when I see people, and not just myself, being called an idiot, I figure
the promoting of PCT is suffering. Because it is so common on this list, I do
not tell colleagues about the list for fear they will get angry and lose
interest in PCT. (I somewhat fear this even in the published work even though
I promote it.

Well, I said what I have to say on this above, however

This does bring us to the point of why I and others keep getting called
idiots. The fundamental issue is that some of the methods and meanings of
the findings from "conventional psychology"...are useful.

I can't go along about the methods, but I agree that some "findings from
conventional psychology are useful," for example, many years ago, reading
Garrett's Great Experiments in Psychology I was intrigued with his detailed
description of how Herman Ebbinghaus constructed nonsense syllables and
observed (among other things) that when trying to rote-memorize a poem or
speech you would get it complete in the shortest period of time by dividing
your learning time into about 20% intake and 80% recitation. I tried it. I
memorized several poems, trying differnt procedures and, by golly, I concluded
he was right. That method was much more uncomfortable for me than my lazy way
of spending most of my time on intake, but it worked. I still use it, now for
trying to learn a foreign language.

This is just one example of a number of useful observations made by
conventional psychologists. But, note, Ebbinghaus was reporting something that
you can notice reliably by adhering to his procedures. Nowhere did he venture
anything about why we humans work that way.

When it comes to why behavior works the way it does I find PCT "copernican"
and every other proposal "ptolemaic."

The point is, I believe not lost on CPers. They have been saying
for years they should do more long-term research, but they rarely to it.

Why? might be worth trying to answer. What if it were found that the true
answer is NOT one of sufficient money, or other practical matters. What if,
when anyone tried to do that they eventually wound up in inextricable tangles
resulting from the type of underlying assumptions? (See the Discussion of
Frey & Stahlberg's research in Phil Runkel's Casting Nets and Testing
Specimens, or my and Dave Goldstein's Testing the Self as a Control System in
Martin Taylor's forthcoming journal article. Earlier versions are somewhere in
PCT archives too.)

Anyway, I do not wish to expand on my arguments of CPers as they are not
the audience I am taking to now.

As for the arguments that range from time to time around "findings" resulting
from IV/DV correlations, I think Runkel's Casting Nets covers the entire field
so beautifully and so precisely that it kind of infuriates me to see the same
old issues come up over and over. If you want to sell soap and don't give a
damn what is going in the people who buy soap -- but only want what gross
patterns of actions go with other gross patterns of actions - then fine-slicing
is the way to go. But let's not kid ourselves that we are learning anything
about how behavior works, even the soap companies know that the next time they
do it the patterns may be entirely different.

My point is this:...we should build on what they are doing, not condemn
all of it as useless.

This statement seems fair enough; it invites a "put up or shut up."
Why? Because it has yet to be demonstrated that that is possible.

Much later
Jeff

[From Bill Powers (980305.1304 MST)]
Take one of the simplest examples of a stimulus and a response, an
"unconditional reflex."

Can you make a guess as to what that controlled variable might be?

Liquid on the eye. But I do not know how it could sense that, so I would
need to know more about eye physiology to make a really good guess.

Not bad, might I suggest a glance at the discussion of a bit of research on the
"Corneal Lubrication Control System," pp. 116-117 in IMP?
The question of sensing the level of moisture on the cornea is not dealt with
in that discussion, and so far as I know there are no sensory nerves in the
cornea. However, another possibility is that the point of control is at the
secretory gland, which I believe is innervated (I. E. the degree of humidity
would hot have to be sensed if the tension or "fullness" of the gland is under
control, as is the case with other secretory organs as I recall (but, it's been
a long time)).

But can you think of some variable that might be affected in one direction by
Rick's statement, and in the opposite direction by your reply?

The kinds of statements Rick makes to me.

Would you consider another possibility: That your self image is under control?

If you can solve these little problems, then you might start to see that
the Behavioral Illusion,

I am afraid I still do not get this point. The social psychologist is
interested in what "causes" violent behavior.

Bingo. I think that statement might really help draw the lines. Try this:
Nothing "causes" violent behavior. The term, "violent behavior" only exists as
a concept resting on certain premises about the nature of reality.
People do things that other people call, "violent." If you want to know why,
you might ask them, and if you are suspicious of their answers you might work
with applying the Test - something Ed Ford and, I believe, Tom Bourbon have
made some important contributions to.

But "what" causes violent behavior contains the hidden assumption that that
"what" lies out there in the world, somehow.

Enough, already, I've spent most of a day at this and it begins to dawn on me
that I might be contributing to the very situation I disparaged above.

I think Garrison Keillor sets us a good example when he says all the children
in Lake Wobegone are above average. I propose that everyone on CSGNET is
brilliant, there are no idiots here, and sooner or later we are collectively
going to contribute a lot to understanding how behavior really works, and that
in turn promises many benefits to the human condition; so, let's get on with
it.

Best, Dick RobertsonFrom ???@??? Fri Mar 06 21:29:46 1998
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···

Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 16:42:01 -0800
Reply-To: "Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet)"
From: Philip Runkel <runk@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU>
Subject: Re: Taking PCT for granted
To: Multiple recipients of list CSGNET
              <CSGNET@POSTOFFICE.CSO.UIUC.EDU>
In-Reply-To: <3.0.1.32.19980305082501.006914f8@mail.frontier.net>
X-UIDL: 15e08801402e5034cb16f0bda761d538

From Phil Runkel commenting on Vancouver of 4 March 98, Marken of same

date, Powers of 5 March concerning differences between CP and PCT.

        Another important difference is the realization that there is no
clear boundary between theory and method (as Marken often points out when
he repeats that independent and dependent variables have no meaning in
PCT. A few years ago, I surveyed the faculty of my psychology department
about method, and got replies from about two-thirds of them. About half
said they never thought about method -- they just did research.

[From Chris Cherpas (980306.1703 PT)]

The forthcoming journal article mentioned in Dick's post sounds
interesting. How might I get a copy?

Dick Robertson (980306.1825CDT) --

...my and Dave Goldstein's Testing the Self as a Control System in
Martin Taylor's forthcoming journal article.I want to join Izaak, Bruce Gregory and several others on the net recently to

state my dismay over the amount of time that seems to me wasted on purely
verbal arguments about some fine (and some not so fine) points in understanding
PCT. (Actually, at first I was going to say, "Izaak's post triggered me into
action," -- how deeply entrenched the Cartesian paradigm is in our turns of
speech, ways of communicating, etc!!!)

Bill Powers (980301.0921 MST)

Bruce Gregory (980301.0527 EST)]
Isn't this starting to sound a bit like scholasticism?

The last time I looked up "scholasticism" in the dictionary it
said, "See CSGnet." This net has become the embodiment of
scholasticism. Vastly more bandwidth is devoted to the "meaning"
of the models than to how well the models explain the data and
what data the models need to explain.

I can appreciate the questions that come from newly interested netters posting
their understandings as means of getting confirmation/disconfirmation of
particular points as a way of refining knowledge. But, I'm puzzled by the
amount of time devoted to verbal debates by old hands on CSGNET. The trouble
with verbal debates is the ambiguity of language, the way premises can be
shifted so gradually and so subtly, that even the perpetrator can continue
thinking he has not altered his position. Isn't that why science grew with
mathematics and modeling as its chief instrumentalities?

I wonder whether we haven't reached a point where Bill, Rick and others ought
to save some of your posts in a special file called, "generic refutations," or
the like, and when some, "same old issue" crops up again, hit the reply button
and hit Macro A, B, or C, etc., as applies and get on with it?

You want illustrations? Consider the following, note the date carefully

Subject: Collecting data about behavioral regularities
[From Bill Powers (930418.0900)]

Ken Hacker (930418) --

You recently described how social and behavioral scientists
amass findings about behavioral regularities and how PCT
scientists develop first principles about human behavior. I
believe you are right, but I do not agree with the implication
that there is anything wrong with collecting data about
behavioral regularities.

Before I talk about collecting data, let's make the "first principles" claim
clearer...When I say that PCT applies to all behavior all of the time, with no
exceptions, I'm trying to convey the KIND of theory it is,...I'm trying to say
that a principle like control of perception isn't meant to apply only to a
certain population under certain conditions, and only to some unspecifiable
set of people within that population. If it's true, it never stops being true

The only comparable theory in psychology is stimulus-response theory which,
regardless of semantic quibbles, is still the primary theory of behavior in
the life sciences...There are very few psychologists today who would admit to
being S-R psychologists....I have had psychologists tell me that of course S-R
theory is dead -- everyone now knows that the correct theory is S-O-R,...
Skinnerians do not consider themselves S-R psychologists...But if you ask any
of them what, in the final analysis, determines the way organisms behave, they
are very firm about the only proper answer: the environment.
Water deprivation causes drinking, not thirst...

the fact is that those who do experiments under this methodology believe that
if it were not for the treatment A, the change in behavior B would not have
happened....Now let's talk about "collecting data about behavioral
regularities."

The regularities the behavioral scientist is interested in are those that can
be seen as consequences or influences of some antecedent event or situation.

So with that understanding, how would we go about gathering data
about behavioral regularities?...

when the PCT researcher and the S-R researcher look at a particular behavior,

they see different things. The S-R researcher sees an act like answering a
question as a response, something that comes out of the organism as a result
of a question that went into the organism.

There is more, much more.

Now let's come up to the present

[from Jeff Vancouver 980304.0900 EST]

[From Rick Marken (980303.1205)

So I guess you're going to press ahead with the cause-effect
approach to studying control. Wonderful. Thanks.

Something like that, I hope this is my last post on the subject though.

There are two perceptions that I am attempting to control related to my
flurry of activity on this net beginning from the anti-valentine post.
First, I am interested in promoting PCT. I believe it has much to offer in
our understanding of human behavior. I think psychology should adopt it as
the paradigm for the study of humans. Recognizing that psychology is a
science and that communities of people define a science, it is important to
me that we "convert" more and more psychologists to see the merits of PCT.
So the answer to Bill's question about why he should care about what those
how [sic] disagree with him think, is because they are the ones that need to
be converted.

JEFF--I find myself having powerful feelings of empathy, sympathy, cynical
amusement, and sadness, for you. I think you are launched on a quest similar
to one I was on thirty years ago. Take a look at my farewell to my department
in 1993

From: Dick Robertson
.To: Psych Department, NEIU
Date: 5/12/93

Thanks for the Goodbye card, it was cute...

That brings me to a request I have right now. As some of you know, my career
in the department has been a rather bittersweet experience. When I first came
here in 1967 I was all fired up to introduce the world of psychology to the
revolutionary way of understanding behavior that I had just learned about. It
never happened. In fact the group of researchers and psyc-appliers, of which
I was a founding member, still have great difficulty getting past all the
gate-keepers of the journals where we would hope to speak to young
psychologists. Right now we are collectively trying to find out why.

- NOW HERE IS MY REQUEST. Would you answer the following list of questions
pertaining to the attached five page article?

[Here I reprinted Bill Powers's "Perceptual Control Theory: an idea before its
time?" I think from the 1992 CSG conference]

I believe that your answers will help give a sample of how professional
psychologists in general view the paradigm controversy that is involved -- and
will help us understand how to approach the major journals.

          (1-Strongly disagree) (2-disagree) (3-agree) (4-strongly agree)

1) I didn't know this was an issue........................ ( 1 2 3 4 )
2) My work is not really concerned with basic paradigms... ( 1 2 3 4 )
3) The issue as described here sounds interesting......... ( 1 2 3 4 )
4) I'm more concerned with usable facts and don't believe

    any basic theory in psychology is useful to me yet..... ( 1 2 3 4 )

5) I find the issue so intriguing I'd like to know more... ( 1 2 3 4 )
6) In principle I'd like to know more, but I'm too busy... ( 1 2 3 4 )
7) Despite what Powers says here I don't think there is a

    real conflict between the traditional and the new view..( 1 2 3 4 )

8) I see PCT as having limited value in percep-motor and

    neuro-psych areas, but S-O-R still has a future for me..( 1 2 3 4 )

(please tear off this page and put back in my box - Thanks in advance)

I think I still have the reports somewhere, but I can't find them, so my memory
will have to do. A little more than half of my colleagues sent me their
replies. I believe the commonest answer to #1 was (3); ca to #2 - (4); ca to
#3 - (3); ca to #4 - (4); ca to #5 - (2); ca to #6 - (4); ca to #7 - (3);
ca to #7 - (8).

Back to another of your posts Jeff (I lost the dateline)

The second perception that I am attempting to control, I think, is that I
am respected.

First, GOOD FOR YOU, next consider this rephrasing and tell me if it seems to
say the same as what you said, or something different? "The second perception
that I am attempting to control, I think, is my self-image as a person who is
respected."? If you buy this one tentatively, you might set up for yourself
the question, What observations satisfy my desire to be perceived as respected?

You have already stated the negative side,

Again, to help Rick with his test of me, when you say "you are a CPer" I
hear "you are an idiot" simply because you are saying it. It is like a
Texan calling you a New Yorker

Notice the, "I hear...." Do you have a choice, or is your hearing here like an
"eyeblink reflex?"

Back to why I proposed a rephrase of,

The second perception that I am attempting to control, I think, is that I
am respected.

I have to tell you that that way of saying it leaves me confused as to whether
you think you are in control of whether you are respected, or Rick is, and if
the latter, how are you going to control that?

OK enough of that, but as you say,

This is much more personal. Although as Rick points out, nearly everyone is
probably trying to control this to some extent,...

Thus, when I see people, and not just myself, being called an idiot, I figure
the promoting of PCT is suffering. Because it is so common on this list, I do
not tell colleagues about the list for fear they will get angry and lose
interest in PCT. (I somewhat fear this even in the published work even though
I promote it.

Well, I said what I have to say on this above, however

This does bring us to the point of why I and others keep getting called
idiots. The fundamental issue is that some of the methods and meanings of
the findings from "conventional psychology"...are useful.

I can't go along about the methods, but I agree that some "findings from
conventional psychology are useful," for example, many years ago, reading
Garrett's Great Experiments in Psychology I was intrigued with his detailed
description of how Herman Ebbinghaus constructed nonsense syllables and
observed (among other things) that when trying to rote-memorize a poem or
speech you would get it complete in the shortest period of time by dividing
your learning time into about 20% intake and 80% recitation. I tried it. I
memorized several poems, trying differnt procedures and, by golly, I concluded
he was right. That method was much more uncomfortable for me than my lazy way
of spending most of my time on intake, but it worked. I still use it, now for
trying to learn a foreign language.

This is just one example of a number of useful observations made by
conventional psychologists. But, note, Ebbinghaus was reporting something that
you can notice reliably by adhering to his procedures. Nowhere did he venture
anything about why we humans work that way.

When it comes to why behavior works the way it does I find PCT "copernican"
and every other proposal "ptolemaic."

The point is, I believe not lost on CPers. They have been saying
for years they should do more long-term research, but they rarely to it.

Why? might be worth trying to answer. What if it were found that the true
answer is NOT one of sufficient money, or other practical matters. What if,
when anyone tried to do that they eventually wound up in inextricable tangles
resulting from the type of underlying assumptions? (See the Discussion of
Frey & Stahlberg's research in Phil Runkel's Casting Nets and Testing
Specimens, or my and Dave Goldstein's Testing the Self as a Control System in
Martin Taylor's forthcoming journal article. Earlier versions are somewhere in
PCT archives too.)

Anyway, I do not wish to expand on my arguments of CPers as they are not
the audience I am taking to now.

As for the arguments that range from time to time around "findings" resulting
from IV/DV correlations, I think Runkel's Casting Nets covers the entire field
so beautifully and so precisely that it kind of infuriates me to see the same
old issues come up over and over. If you want to sell soap and don't give a
damn what is going in the people who buy soap -- but only want what gross
patterns of actions go with other gross patterns of actions - then fine-slicing
is the way to go. But let's not kid ourselves that we are learning anything
about how behavior works, even the soap companies know that the next time they
do it the patterns may be entirely different.

My point is this:...we should build on what they are doing, not condemn
all of it as useless.

This statement seems fair enough; it invites a "put up or shut up."
Why? Because it has yet to be demonstrated that that is possible.

Much later
Jeff

[From Bill Powers (980305.1304 MST)]
Take one of the simplest examples of a stimulus and a response, an
"unconditional reflex."

Can you make a guess as to what that controlled variable might be?

Liquid on the eye. But I do not know how it could sense that, so I would
need to know more about eye physiology to make a really good guess.

Not bad, might I suggest a glance at the discussion of a bit of research on the
"Corneal Lubrication Control System," pp. 116-117 in IMP?
The question of sensing the level of moisture on the cornea is not dealt with
in that discussion, and so far as I know there are no sensory nerves in the
cornea. However, another possibility is that the point of control is at the
secretory gland, which I believe is innervated (I. E. the degree of humidity
would hot have to be sensed if the tension or "fullness" of the gland is under
control, as is the case with other secretory organs as I recall (but, it's been
a long time)).

But can you think of some variable that might be affected in one direction by
Rick's statement, and in the opposite direction by your reply?

The kinds of statements Rick makes to me.

Would you consider another possibility: That your self image is under control?

If you can solve these little problems, then you might start to see that
the Behavioral Illusion,

I am afraid I still do not get this point. The social psychologist is
interested in what "causes" violent behavior.

Bingo. I think that statement might really help draw the lines. Try this:
Nothing "causes" violent behavior. The term, "violent behavior" only exists as
a concept resting on certain premises about the nature of reality.
People do things that other people call, "violent." If you want to know why,
you might ask them, and if you are suspicious of their answers you might work
with applying the Test - something Ed Ford and, I believe, Tom Bourbon have
made some important contributions to.

But "what" causes violent behavior contains the hidden assumption that that
"what" lies out there in the world, somehow.

Enough, already, I've spent most of a day at this and it begins to dawn on me
that I might be contributing to the very situation I disparaged above.

I think Garrison Keillor sets us a good example when he says all the children
in Lake Wobegone are above average. I propose that everyone on CSGNET is
brilliant, there are no idiots here, and sooner or later we are collectively
going to contribute a lot to understanding how behavior really works, and that
in turn promises many benefits to the human condition; so, let's get on with
it.

Best, Dick RobertsonFrom ???@??? Sat Mar 07 09:36:17 1998
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···

Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 20:14:03 -0700
Reply-To: "Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet)"
From: Bill Powers <powers_w@FRONTIER.NET>
Subject: Re: Taking PCT for granted
To: Multiple recipients of list CSGNET
              <CSGNET@POSTOFFICE.CSO.UIUC.EDU>
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[From Bill Powers (9803061907 MST)]

Jeff Vancouver 980306.1515 EST--

You are asking what their fundamentals are, but you already think you know
the answer: S-R. I tell you that most do not have fundamentals and you say
"nevermind that what are they?"

Nobody can do research without assuming _something_. If you vary an IV and
look for an effect on a DV, you're assuming that the IV affects the DV. You
think you see a causal relation there; that's why you title your paper "The
effect of (x) on (y)". That's what I mean by "fundamentals." If you were a
PCT researcher looking at the same variables, your paper might be titled
"The effect of (x) and (y) on (controlled variable)." Very same data,
different interpretation, different idea of how behavior works.

I understand that it is hard to believe they do not have fundamentals, but
for many it is like asking the chemist for the fundamentals of physics.
They have a "working" knowledge, but it may be filled with gaps large
enough for physicists to fall to their death.

I agree that few people take the time to examine what they are assuming.
But if there's to be any discourse between PCT and CP, the CPers must
become as aware of their assumptions as the PCTers are -- otherwise, what's
to talk about? If one side is just accumulating random observations and the
other is trying to test basic models of how behavior works, there's no
common ground.

Certainly it is true that some (even many) believe S-R is at least one of
the fundamentals of psychology, but most basic researchers would say "if I
knew the fundamentals I would be famous."

But S-R IS a fundamental assumption about behavioral organization, which
requires proof and demonstration just as much as PCT does. Nobody has ever
come up with an equivalent to the Test for checking out the assertion that
a stimulus is causing a response. The only proof I've ever seen boils down
to someone saying "Obviously stimuli cause responses; it's absurd to say
they don't." In other words, stimuli cause responses because I say they do.
-------------------------------------
[What is controlled?]>>>ME:

The kinds of statements Rick makes to me.

That would be trying to control the _cause_ of the disturbance. Assume that
there's nothing you can do to change what Rick says. Instead, look for an
_effect_ of what Rick says on something that is variable. What would it
mean if you or somebody else perceived what Rick said as true? Would
anything important to you be changed? Do you want that (whatever it is) to
be changed? And if not, what is the intended effect of your reply _on that
same variable_?

See my post to Rick (JV 980306.0900). To add to that: I cannot conceive
of what CV I could affect by what I said other than Rick.

"Rick" is not a variable, so "Rick" can't be a controlled variable.

I cannot
conceive of what effect my reply might have on anything that is related to
correcting for what Rick said other than through Rick. (I take that back,
if I was controlling for what others think of me besides Rick, then my
statements might effect them, but that is not really any different - the CV
is still people.)

The CV is not people either. People are not controlled variables. A
controlled variable has to be something that can _vary_ along some scale.

Try this on: Rick's opinion of you. That is of the nature of a variable; it
can range from favorable to unfavorable. So it's possible that you might be
controlling for Rick's opinion of you to be favorable. So whatever you say
will be aimed at making his opinion of you (as you perceive it through his
words) more favorable. What he says conveys a poor opinion; what you say is
designed to improve that opinion.

Or this: other people's opinion of you. You might see Rick's words as
threatening to alter other people's opinion of you, so you speak up -- to
the other people as well as Rick -- in way intended to counteract whatever
effects he might be having on other people's opinions.

Another possibility: your own self-image. Rick's words might be perceived
as implying an image of yourself that you don't want to have. Whatever you
do or say then becomes a way of defending your own perception of yourself,
of restoring it to the state you prefer.

The _effect_ of Rick's statements is on my perception,
but my action does not directly effect my perception. If it did, I should
feel like I am in control of this respect thing, I am not. My output is
hitting the brick wall called Rick - the true CV in this ECU.

Is it Rick's degree of respect for you that you want to control, or your
own? Exactly what is "my perception"? My perception _of what?_ You have
to pin that down before you can start talking about controlled variables.
Whose respect for whom, or for what? Once you decide on what is being
perturbed, you can start to see how Rick's words (as you perceive them)
affect it in one direction, and your own words represent an attempt to
resist or correct that effect. If you carefully investigate what you are
really trying to control, you might discover that it's uncontrollable and
you would be better off trying to control something on which you can have
more effects.
--------------------------------------

Isn't she assuming that hearing insulting words ("cues") causes a person to
feel bad, or insulted? That implies an underlying S-R model: sound-waves in
certain patterns entering the ears cause emotions to arise.

This is a circular argument we are in. She is testing an assumption that
can be characterized as cause-effect. But the implication of S-R is your
logic, not mine.

What I mean by S-R is what you describe as cause-effect. And she isn't
_testing_ the assuption. If there is an emotion following the insult, she
_assumes_ that the insult caused the emotion -- where is the test of
anything? It is possible that the emotion is actually a response to the
insult, but it is also possible that it is not. What kind of test could you
apply to see which is correct? The PCT assumption would be that the emotion
is part of the action that is used to counteract some perceived effect of
the insult. Of course that would have to be tested, too.

This is the
behaviorist picture of cause and effect in behavior, isn't it?

No. But it is a type of cause-effect picture (there are several - see Cook
& Campbell, 1979).

I agree that
just a little modification would bring her view much closer to PCT -- but
would she be willing to agree that insults don't in themselves make people
feel or do anything?

What does "in themselves" mean? Without o?

As causal agents. The PCT view would be that the insult, as a string of
words, has no inherent effect on the recipient. The effect we see is
determined mainly by the recipient's goals regarding hearing insults, and
what the recipient chooses to do about the perceived insult. I find insults
(and fulsome praise) more amusing than anything else, since I don't
automatically believe what others say about me, good or bad. If someone
uses language toward me commonly agreed to be insulting, or clearly
intended to be insulting, I perceive from that that the person wants to
insult me, and perhaps doesn't like me. But if I don't have any goals about
being liked by that person, that's the end of it. No action is called for.
I simply don't care.

Building on the just-previous example, how would _you_ describe the
phenomenon of "reacting to an insult?" What do Rick's words affect

my perception of being insulted.

I agree, but try to expand that. What is "being insulted?" The more exactly
you can specify what variable would be affected by an unopposed insult, the
easier it becomes to see how your action is aimed at opposing that effect.

that
your reaction would affect the opposite way?

Nothing. But if the system was working, Rick.

Suppose Rick called you stupid, and you felt demeaned and unsure of
yourself. Wouldn't the next action you took be aimed at correcting those
feelings? When you retort hotly that you are NOT stupid, aren't you talking
to yourself as much as to Rick? You can't undo Rick's words, but you can
take some action that will tend to restore your own feelings to
equilibrium. Perhaps you will try to have some effect on Rick that will
keep him from giving you those bad feelings again, but that's not very
effective, especially with Rick. It would be much more effective to change
something in you so his words wouldn't produce the bad feelings in the
first place. His saying or implying you are stupid doesn't mean that you
are stupid. It just indicates what he thinks. Perhaps it would be more
effective to stop giving any weight to what he thinks. If you have
confidence in your perception that you're not stupid, his statement that
you are stupid just shows that he is misinformed. It means nothing about
your actual intelligence.

Whatever you do, it adds up to producing an effect on your feelings that is
equal and opposite to the effect his words have, or that you let his words
have, on your feelings. The feelings (in this hypothetical case) are the
CV; Rick disturbs them, and you oppose the effects of the disturbance,
trying to keep your feelings in the state where you want them.
---------------------------------------------

Sure, that's a very practical finding. But it doesn't explain what is
happening. It just says "Don't do this because that bad thing is likely to
happen." In other words, you're talking about an _observed phenomenon_, not
a theory of behavior.

It is practical, yet of no use?

It is of practical use, but not of any theoretical use. It can't be used to
help us understand behavior in other circumstances, or in general.

Best,

Bill P.