Shannon's comment

[From Bruce Abbott (951019.1540 EST)]

Shannon Williams 951018 --

Hi, Shannon, welcome to CSG-L!

[Avery.Andrews 951018]

it seems to me that if you insist on knowing nothing about the why's,
your not likely to get very far with the what's, either.

How do we determine the 'why' before we determine the 'what'? Until we
determine 'what is being controlled' (temperature), how can we say
why the mound exists? Until we determine 'what is being controlled' (a
child's sense of hunger), how can we say why the child is crying?

Why would you look for what is being controlled unless you were puzzled
about the purposes of the termite's mound?

Wouldn't a detailed description of the life of the termite (what it does,
where, and under what circumstances) guide PCT research by revealing
patterns of behavior that occur reliably under specific circumstances and
which appear to the external observer as though they might serve specific
functions in the life of the species?

The research process begins with observation. These observations reveal
phenomena that require explanation. To develop a scientific explanation,
one must begin by framing hypotheses that can be subjected to objective
test. Having observed that young chicks string along behind their mother
whenever she moves from one place to another (the phenomenon), one can
hypothesize, for example, that the chicks are attempting to control their
perceived distance from their mother. This leads to the application of the
Test for the controlled variable, to confirm or deny this hypothesis.

On the other hand, if I give you a newly-hatched chick and ask you, the PCT
researcher, to tell me all about the chick's perceptual control systems, it
is rather doubtful that you would ever stumble on the fact that, during a
certain phase of the chick's life, it controls like crazy for distance to
mom, not unless you had some additional information about chick behavior to
guide you. But alas, the findings of such "conventional" research, I am
told, are of no interest to the PCT researcher, because there is no way to
tell whether the observed behavior is a relevant or irrelevant side-effect
of control.

Avery's comment has, I think, been misinterpreted. Naturalists who have
studied termite mounds have done an excellent job of showing what functions
the mound serves in the life of the species. Once you know what purposes
the mound serves, you are in an excellent position to identify which among
the myriad possible controlled variables are actually involved in the
termite's control processes. Thus, the observations and conclusions of
"conventional" research can sometimes guide the search for controlled
perceptions.

Until we determine that the child crys when its mother leaves the room, why
would we even ask whether crying is being used as a means to control its
distance from its mother?

Regards,

Bruce

[From Shannon Williams (951019)]

Bruce Abbott (951019.1540 EST) ---

Why would you look for what is being controlled unless you were puzzled
about the purposes of the termite's mound?

Let me re-phrase this question:

   "Why would you look for what is being controlled unless you were
    puzzled about overt signs of control?"

My answer is: All living things control. I am interested to know what
it is they control. And I am just as interested in organisms that do not
appear to control as I am in those which obviously control.

Wouldn't a detailed description of the life of the termite (what it does,
where, and under what circumstances) guide PCT research by revealing
patterns of behavior that occur reliably under specific circumstances and
which appear to the external observer as though they might serve specific
functions in the life of the species?

If you gave a detailed description of what I do, where, and under what
circumstances, you still would not know my motives. To know my motives
you would have to systematically guess my motive, and then test to see
if you could be right. Without this "guess/test/test/guess/test/test..."
procedure, you mostly have "guess/guess/guess...".

Until we determine that the child crys when its mother leaves the room, why
would we even ask whether crying is being used as a means to control its
distance from its mother?

We would ask because before we can test a guess, we have to have a guess.

Even "smiling" is a means to control. The question is "*what* is being
controlled?" So we make a guess, then test it. Then test it again. Then
make more guesses. Then test them. Etc.

Shannon