Skinner, PCT Research

[From Rick Marken (960809.0845)]

Phil Runkel (8 Aug 96) --

The story goes that he demonstrated a model of his three-pigeon guidance
system to a committee of generals and admirals. The pigeons performed
flawlessly, but the generals and admirals voted against investing any money
to develop the idea.

Unlike B. F., the generals and admirals may have understood that the pigeons
were controlling their perception of the two-dimensional representation of
the ship's position relative to the target; so the generals knew that the
pigeons could be easily replaced by a very simple, reliable and inexpensive
control system.

Looks to me as if Skinner had the full loop before his eyes but missed the
point he could have taken from his own demonstration.

Skinner reminds me of the drunken gunslinger in "Cat Ballou" about whose
target shooting accuracy it was said in amazement "He did it; he missed
the barn"! The broad side of the "barn" of control was sitting right in front
of Skinner and he missed it; he missed the barn.

R.M. Holston (960808) --

Skinner was a great man

What was great about him? He made arcane a simple principle that was known to
every animal trainer in the universe (that you can control behavior with
contingent rewards), he mistakenly concluded that this was consistent with
his existing belief that the environment _controls_ behavior, and he
was a loopy writer. I think Skinner ranks up right up there with Freud in the
pantheon of "great mistakes in the great man theory of science".

Stefan Balke (960809.1130 CET) --

Are their any plans to make common efforts in the development of systematic
tests for controlled perceptions?

Nope. It's every man for himself. If you want to do PCT research just go
on out and do it.

What should be done to come closer to the goal of common efforts?

Encourage more people to do PCT research, publish it and report it on
this net and at CSG meetings. There are currently only a handfull of people
doing PCT research so there's not much need to worry about coordinating their
common efforts; we talk to each other nearly every day.