Sympathy for the Devils?

From Greg Williams (920106)

Bill Powers (930105.1530)

Dr. Diabolo has threatened to singe my whiskers if I don't channel the
following. I explained to him that not even a devil can control me without
overwhelming physical force. He said, "Or threat of same," and so here goes.

Your way of putting this assumes that the intended position of
the cursor relative to the target is AT the target. It is
perfectly possible to move the cursor so it remains a fixed
distance to either side of the target. This makes the definition
of a disciminative stimulus somewhat difficult, because at that
specified distance from the target, most of the time, one can see
-- nothing. The stimulus now has to be defined as the distance
between the cursor and an arbitrarily-located empty place in
space, or alternatively as the distance of the target from that
empty place minus the distance of the cursor from that empty
place. No matter how you put it, the discriminative stimulus has
to be imaginary.

The devils agree that organisms make the connections between patterns of
energy in time and space in their environments (including, often, ZERO energy
at some places in the patterns -- one might phone Aunt Sally if she DOESN'T
write for two weeks). But they say that how the organisms come to making
connections between PARTICULAR sets of "stimuli" and "responses" can be
investigated adequately by looking at the observable history of the organism,
not by talking about inner states, which are TRULY "imaginary."

The cursor position and velocity always reflect the ongoing
behavior of the disturbance PLUS the ongoing behavior of the
handle. If the cursor begins moving slowly to the right, this
could indicate that the disturbance has started pushing it to the
right a little faster than the handle is pushing it to the left,
or that the handle has started pushing it to the left a little
slower than the disturbance is pushing it to the right. The
information required to make even this qualitative judgment is
not contained in the cursor position or velocity. You must
perceive your own handle movements directly and estimate how the
cursor would be moving and where it would be positioned if your
handle were the only influence.

No, this qualitative judgment is not needed. All that is needed is the
"discriminative stimulus" of cursor position relative to target position and
cursor speed relative to target position. REGARDLESS of where the handle is,
and REGARDLESS of the current relative contributions to cursor position and
movement of the disturbance, the "response" is: change the handle velocity in
the direction which moves the cursor toward the target and by an amount
(change of speed) which is a function of the position and velocity of the
cursor. (Actually, the function might involve cursor acceleration, too -- the
actual form of the function is an experimental question.) Knowing where the
handle is and the form of the disturbance aren't necessary.

All these demonstrations, which I have actually done and which
are easily reproducible, show that the person is not making any
use of information about the disturbance, either directly when it
is available on the screen, or indirectly by estimation of
expected handle effects on the cursor.

Even PCTers can do the Devil's work. Beautiful demo!

I tell you: the disturbance is changing to push the cursor to the
left while the handle is moving to push it to the right. Which
way, pray tell, do you predict that the cursor will be moving?

Depending on the relative magnitudes of the contributions from handle and
disturbance, the cursor could be going either way. Whichever way it goes, the
response will be to move it back toward the target.

One last time: don't take high correlations as THE sign of
stimulus-response relationships.

Why not? That's what THEY do, isn't it? This brings out the main
reason we can't talk to conventional behavioral scientists. If
you show them a tracking experiment, the first thing they will do
is look for high correlations: this behavior is a response to
that stimulus. When we carefully set up the experiment to show
what actually happens to the correlations, what do they do? Do
they say "Oh, migosh, it looks as though I have the wrong

No, they say, "Oh, migosh, it looks as though YOU have picked the wrong
'stimuli' and 'responses.'"

The real problem is that such people don't have any idea of what
a real explanation amounts to. They have given up on science.

Didn't you read the part about PCTers taking the easy way out and looking only
at the high correlations between the RESULTS of responses (actions) and the
disturbances, rather than facing up to the facts of noisiness in the REAL
stimulus-response functions, as do Devils, Inc.?



Whew... Back to myself. This channeling business is hard work. Real mediums
earn every penny, I can tell you!

When I suggested trying to use PCT to solve recalcitrant problems of
nonPCTers, I assumed that the obvious way to determine such problems is to ask
nonPCTers what they are having trouble with. I don't follow much of what's
happening in human psychology, but I know that "organizing principles" are in
short supply for neuroethologists trying to connect neural circuitry with
behavior in "simple" organisms. As Tom Bourbon suggested recently, perhaps it
is here (specifically, with APLYSIA) that PCT ideas can lead to a Nobel Prize.
In psychology (for which Nobels are not awarded... hmmm... does that say
something in a metacontext), I'm sure other netters can suggest some
recalcitrant problems of the devils (who, it turns out, are NOT omniscient,
unlike God (?)).

As ever,