[Rick Marken 2019-09-02_13:52:58]
In response to Bruce Nevin (20190830.16:30 ET)
RM: I’d be interested in hearing what you think is an example of a social variable and how work in “collective control” shows that it can have a strong theoretical basis in PCT.
RM: Huh huh?Â Actually, I was replying to this:
BN: That is not the ghost of which I wrote. The dispute was over Bill’s resistance, perhaps around 1992, to notions like social variables or shared perceptions, I’m sure I don’t remember the precise words that were in play. Work on collective control showed how something like those notions can have a sound theoretical basis in PCT.
RM: So is it any clearer if I ask to see an example of how work on collective control gave notions like social variables or shared perceptions a strong theoretical basis in PCT?
BN: Yes, I understood your question, and I was being responsive. Your question had two parts. You first asked for an example of a ‘social variable’, and then you aid you’d like to hear how investigations of collective control give such variables a strong theoretical basis in PCT. I replied to the first part of your question with an example. After you recognize that, we can continue with the second part of your question.
RM: So "huh?"Â is an example of a social variable? It might be the state of a social variable but it doesn’t seem like a variable to me, let alone a social variable.Â
BN: You did not respond to the word “Huh?” as an example of a collectively controlled (‘social’) variable.
RM: Well, only you would know that. I responded to “Huh?” as a disturbance to a conversation about social variables and collective control. To correct that disturbance I responded by suggesting what I thought might be a better way to ask my question, in order to get an answer that didn’t seem like a non-sequiter.Â
BN: If you had [recognized that “Huh?” was a response to the question about what a social variable is], you might have commented that the word “Huh?” and its intonation (indicated by the question mark) conventionally indicates not understanding what was just said,
RM: That is the way I took it and it’s why I re-framed my question.Â
BN: or alternatively consternation that such a thing might be said, and you might have acknowledged that “conventionally indicating” something is a function of collective control.
RM: Yes, I might have done all that but I was asking you (not myself) what social variables are. I also think the term “collective control” describes many very different phenomena involving control by multiple individuals, So saying that something is explained by “collective control” says virtually nothing to me about how a particular phenomenon is explained. Which is why I was asking for an explanation of howÂ “collective control” explains social variables.
BN: We’ve discussed the nature of social conventions a fair amount.
RM: Indeed we have and I have copied part of a post from Bill Powers, a reply to you, giving the PCT explanation of the control of social variables without any need for postulating “collective control” to give them a “strong theoretical basis”. It’s copied at the end of htis.
BN: I confess that the ‘consternation’ meaning is also relevant. You seriously do not remember any of our discussions of language and culture in terms of collective control?
RM: I do remember the cool little simulations I did that were aimed at explaining the data you presented on pronunciation drift. And some other discussions of what I would call “conflictive control” that seemed to have no obvious relationship to any everyday social phenomenon.
BN: The context, as you generously reminded us, was "The dispute … over Bill’s resistance, perhaps around 1992, to notions like social variables or shared perceptions."Â
RM: Someone else must have reminded us of that; I have no memory of the 1992 dispute. But, as I mentioned, I did find a nice post from Bill, in reply to you, that presents his (and my) take on control of what I think of as social variables.Â And the basic idea is that these variables (like the pronunciationÂ variables in my pronunciationÂ drift model) “exist only in individuals”.Â
BN: Confirmed to materialist science as he was, he said he would want to see the input and output functions, etc. It looked like this resistance was going to make it difficult to talk about language and culture within PCT.
RM: I think Bill was “confirmed " (did you mean confined?”) to science; he was certainly not confirmed (or confined) to materialism.Â Check out any of Bill’s papers on consciousness.Â
BN: Investigations of collective control showed how humans in social groups create and maintainÂ such ‘social variables’,
RM: It depends on what you mean by “collective control”. I think Bill’s CROWD demo and my “pronunciation drift” model show how collections of individual control systems, controlling for the same or similar social perceptions, can produce what would be called social phenomena. I have also seen Kent’s collective conflict models, which can result in a virtually controlled variable, though I haven’t seen what social data that model actually accounts for. And that “conflictive control” model also has all the actors in the collective conflict experiencing error and, thus, not being in control. I don’t think real social agents like to live with sustained error for very long.Â
BN: Here’s one of the posts from Bill that I found that I think is relevant to this discussion.
[From Bill Powers (2003.03.12.1041
Bruce Nevin (2003.03.12 11:14 EST)–
BP: Just a couple of remarks for
now. You have said twice now that it would be
difficult to test for controlled
BN: >We want to identify, and
then disturb, and measure resistance to the
disturbance of, a >social
artifact, but we are arrested in our progress at
the very first step: the
hypothesis that posits the controlled variable.
BP: I can see that this would pose a
problem if the social artifact had any
independent existence of its own:
just where on the social CV would you
push to see if there is resistance?
If you try to push on the distance
between two Arabs, your hand will
encounter only thin air.
BP: It is far easier to imagine
disturbing a variable that a person is
controlling, and this is how I would
proceed in investigating social
reference levels. I would say to my
Jewish friend, “Want half of my BLT?”
This, plus appropriate follow-up
interactions, would tell me whether my
friend perceived being Jewish as
requiring the avoidance of things like
bacon. By such means I could
determine, within reasonable bounds, not only
how my friend perceives Jewishness,
but what reference conditions he
maintains and what actions he finds
permissible to carry out, at least with
a friend, to defend those variables
BP: What I am describing is close
to, but not the same as, what Lee says in the
cited segment. It helps a great deal
to be able to perceive something like
what the other person perceives, in
order to propose specific Tests, but
I’m not convinced that total
immersion is essential. Maybe it is; I haven’t
BP: If we put that aside, I think
that part of my thesis would be upheld by
Dorothy Lee’s experiences. I am, for
all practical purposes, as totally
immersed in my society as possible
for me, yet I don’t think I have ever
met any person who could be
considered representative of everyone else but
me. Furthermore, I am quite sure
that there is no such person. I have
formed some generalizations about
others in my society, but it has always
been quite clear to me that they did
not apply to everyone, and in fact the
older I get, the less general any of
my generalizations seem. If Dorothy
Lee immersed herself in a foriegn
society and came to know it as a native,
then she, too, would have formed
generalizations about the other people,
and they would have been no more
true about everyone in that society than
my generalizations about my own
society are. Well, they probably would have
been more true than mine from the
standpoint of being consistent and
systematic, but that would not make
them any less statistical in nature.
Generalizations, as understood in
the social sciences, by their very nature
are not true of everyone.
BP: You haven’t yet budged me from
my position that social variables exist only
in individuals; I now add, … and
can be detected only through
interactions with individuals. I
will include linguistic phenomena in that
assertion. The way we find out about
cultures is through interacting with
individuals and then forming
generalizations – which are, of course,
perceptions in ourselves of the same
type as the social perceptions we
investigate. Generalizations which
refer to all individuals in a culture
are prima facie false.
Generalizations which refer to a culture treated
as a population are, if correctly
drawn, true but not necessarily
applicable to any individual in that
culture ("The Achumawi male is 5 feet
5.173 inches tall"). Those that
are true of individuals are true only of
specific individuals – the subset
of those tested who behaved exactly
according to hypothesis. And as I’m
sure you will agree, that subset is
never as large as the set of
individuals tested. Sometimes it is not even
half as large as the tested set (for
example, it could be a a little over a
third of the population if three
alternatives were tested).
Richard S. MarkenÂ
"Perfection is achieved not when you have nothing more to add, but when you
have nothing left to take away.â€?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â --Antoine de Saint-Exupery