Shannon's message, Round 4

[From Bruce Abbott (951021.1600 EST)]

Shannon Williams (951021) --

Bruce Abbott (951021.1120 EST)

none of your work is of any value for the PCT theorist (so it is claimed),
and in a post-PCT world it will be viewed in the way that the work of
alchemists is viewed today.

What is the primary difference between the concept of alchemy and
chemistry? (Do chemists deal with different substances than alchemists? Or
do they mainly understand these substances differently?)

I wish I knew more about alchemy; I suspect that the old alchemists made
many observations which contributed to the developing science of chemistry,
once the proper framework was discovered. The alchemists were held back by
their framework, yes.

If I tell you that Billy is five years old and both parents smoke, we know:
1) the percentage chance that Billy will not smoke. But we do not know why.
We do not know what Billy's parents do to influence him not to smoke.
(Short of not smoking themselves). 2) if Billy's parents have PhD's,
we can tell the percentage chance that Billy will not go to college. But
we cannot tell why. 3) we can tell the percentage chance that he will not
wreck his car when he is 16. But we cannot tell why. We cannot tell
'why', because we do not know 'what' influences people to do the
behaviors that they do.

Do these observations sound anything like the observations I have been
describing? [But just as an aside, psychologists do know more about the
origins of such behavior than you seem to give them credit for.] You seem
to be describing actuarial predictions based on, for example, survey data.
This kind of research has its uses (e.g., if I want to identify children at
high risk of smoking, which is useful enough), but it is not the kind of
research I am talking about.

Current psychology has described different goups that people fit into.

What psychology are you talking about? Again, you seem to be describing
actuarial stuff. It's not the sort of work I was suggesting would provide a
good starting point for PCT research.

The description also includes notes like: Behavior A is reinforced by
behavior B which exists because of a combination of C and D... These
are the elements of alchemy. The alchemist can describe the
characteristics of his elements, but he cannot explain why these
characteristics exist. Nor does he know his elements' potential for change.

Now you're talking about explanations for behavior based on reinforcement
theory--there's no connection between this and your first statement about
psychology categorizing people into groups. It's like saying "current
chemistry has discribed different groups elements fit into. The description
includes notes like Reaction A is catalyzed by Reaction B." Even if
chemistry is good science this description makes it sound awful, because the
description itself is vague and throws together different statements that
bear no obvious relation to oneanother.

With enough observation, I'll bet I can infer many of your higher-level
controlled perceptions, although such inferences would remain to be
tested.

It depends upon what you are going to guess about. If you are going to
guess that I would get irate if the park cancelled a volleyball league, you
would be correct. And you would not make this guess without knowing
something about me. But does this tell you why I want to play volleyball?
Does this tell you what drives me? Does it hint to you if I could replace
volleyball with something else? What variable could change in my life so
that I am not driven to play?

Now you are ignoring what I have already granted you, in order to further
your argument. I have already stated that I would have to do the research
to answer those questions. If I don't argue the point, why persist with it?
I have also pointed out that this particular example does not really fit the
situation I'm talking about. I didn't find any counterargument in your
reply, so I don't see that it is legitimate argument on your part to
continue pursuing it.

If PCT is the better mousetrap, why not demonstrate its superior
explanatory power in those arenas? One has to start somewhere. Why not
there? And why not make good use of the information that is already
available?

Are you arguing that behavioral phenomena such as those I have described
are too complex for a beginning analysis?

I am arguing that if you believe in an earth-centered universe, you will
not visualize Kepler's laws. And even when the laws predict correctly,
you will not be able to apply them to your comprehensions.

All of which may be true but is irrelevant to the position I have been
advancing. Whether or not ethologists, for example, have viewed behavior in
control-system terms, they have done a magnificent job, in my opinion, of
providing germain observations and yes, even conclusions (e.g., about the
functional significance of many behavioral patterns), that a
constrol-systems scientist would be better off knowing than ignoring when
beginning a study of, for example, termite control systems. By the way, you
only answered the questions in the second of the two quoted paragraphs.

I'm afraid I just don't follow your logic. In what way does the theoretical
framework within which the ethologist worked when collecting his or her
observations prevent me from reinterpreting those observations from within
the framework provided by PCT? And what prevents the ethologist from
deducing which inputs are crucially involved in the behavior? They do
experiments, you know. And as I pointed out in a previous post, even if the
ethologist believes that these behaviors are elicited by "releasing
stimuli," tests to determine the nature of those stimuli reveal (for the PC
theorist) what perceptual inputs are involved in the operation of the
control system whose actions constitute the observed behaviors.

If you believe that you can intuitively understand another being's
behavior just by observing it, you will not be able to visualize PC.
Your objective data could be useful to a PC experimenter, but he could not
build upon your theory or analysis.

Firstly, as I will once again repeat, I am not suggesting "that you can
intuitively understand another being's behavior just by observing it." Why
do you insist that I am? If this is what you perceive my position to be,
I'm not suprised that you are arguing against it. I would, too!

Secondly, although the PC experimenter would not wish to "build upon the
theory" of the ethologist (assuming the ethologist is, for example, relying
on an S-R type of interpretation), there is no necessary reason why a PC
experimenter could not build upon his analysis, if his analysis were based
on the right kind of information. How about the observation that the
egg-retrieval motion of the graylag goose continues, once begun, even if the
egg is removed during the process? Ethologists have concluded from such
observations that this motion, once begun, operates independently of the
tactile feedback from the egg. They have also noted that the side-to-side
motion of the bill during this behavior, which normally occurs during the
retrieval motion and tends to keep the egg from rolling off the bill, does
depend on such feedback, because it is absent once the egg has been removed.
These seem to be sound interpretations to me, and I'm sure I could write a
very fine computer model of this egg-retrieval system that would perform
exactly as the goose does. Are you sure you don't want to reconsider your
position? (;->

Regards,

Bruce

[From Shannon Williams (951022)]

Bruce Abbott (951021.1600 EST) --

Now you're talking about explanations for behavior based on reinforcement
theory--there's no connection between this and your first statement about
psychology categorizing people into groups.

The relationship is that people act the way that they act because certain
acts are reinforced. The people are then understood according to the way
they act.

In (my understanding of) PC, people would be understood according to what
drives them to act.

With enough observation, I'll bet I can infer many of your higher-level
controlled perceptions.

[I described how you would not recognized my perceptions]

I didn't find any counterargument in your reply, so I don't see that it is
legitimate argument on your part to continue pursuing it.

I think that my point is legitimate. It is also crucial.

What is the difference between infering and intuiting if the reasoning is
untested?

In what way does the theoretical framework within which the ethologist
worked when collecting his or her observations prevent me from
reinterpreting those observations from within the framework provided by PCT?

In no way. Objective data can and should be used and reused.

And what prevents the ethologist from deducing which inputs are crucially
involved in the behavior?

His comprehension of "input", "crucial", and "behavior". And the fact that
"perception" is not even considered.

If the organism's behavior is only a function of his perception, then what
can we deduce if we do not know his perception?

In other words, without studying the organism's point of view, we can
accurately describe its behavior. But only the organism's point of view
will explain what makes the behavior exists, or can be used to predict
how environmental changes will affect its behavior.

I am not suggesting "that you can intuitively understand another being's
behavior just by observing it." Why do you insist that I am?

because:
  [From Bruce Abbott (951021.1120 EST)]

        >>>If you gave a detailed description of what I do, where, and
        >>>under what circumstances, you still would not know my motives.
        >>>
        >>I contend that I would have a very firm foundation on which to
        >>build my (now highly educated) guesses.
        >>
        >With what facts do you build this foundation?
        >
        With facts derived from objective observation.

How do you derive facts from objective observation? What algorithm do you
use?

They have also noted that the side-to-side motion of the bill during this
behavior, which normally occurs during the retrieval motion and tends to
keep the egg from rolling off the bill, does depend on such feedback,
because it is absent once the egg has been removed.

These seem to be sound interpretations to me...

Does the bird go through these movements when he is blind-folded? Or when
tactile feedback is faked (can that be done?). Actually, it does not
matter for this discussion. I can answer you that if I were to begin
studying this bird, I would want the information that you just gave.

Sincerely,
Shannon