Testing with Naturally Occurring Disturbances

A nice (actually, rather chilling) example of using a naturalistic disturbance to infer a controlled variable occurred on January 6. On that day, insurgents stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President of the US. The insurrection appeared to have been incited by President Trump, which he denies.

The house has now impeached Trump, which means they have accused him of inciting the insurrection. In PCT terms this means that the House has hypothesized that Trump was controlling for the violent storming of the Capitol. Trump has said that he wasn’t trying to cause an insurrection – in PCTese, that he wasn’t controlling for it – and he claims that many of his statements prior to and after the insurrection prove that.

But there is a very clear, PCT-based way to test the hypothesis that he was, indeed, controlling for the violent insurrection. If he wasn’t controlling for it then when the insurrection was happening – which Trump was witnessing on the media – it would have been a disturbance to his desire for a peaceful protest and he would have done whatever he could to try to stop it. He did nothing to stop it. Clearly, the insurrection was not a disturbance to the perception he was controlling for; indeed, the violence at the Capitol seemed to be exactly the perception he was controlling for.

Although this test involved only one naturally produced disturbance – the insurrection – I believe the fact that he did nothing to resist that disturbance is the strongest evidence we have that the violent insurrection that occurred on January 6 was something Trump wanted to perceive. This version of the Test strongky suggest that he is guilty of controlling for preventing the peaceful transfer of power to the new, duly elected President and VP of the US.

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Well put, Rick. FWIW, I agree with your analysis.

P.S. I had a follow-on reaction to your post. It occurred to me that lawyers might be very interested in PCT with respect to establishing motive.

RM: Yes, indeed. And we did have at least one lawyer who was a fan of PCT: the late Hugh Gibbons. His book, The Death of Jeffrey Stapleton, which is about the relatoinship between PCT and the law, is available from Amazon (maybe): https://www.amazon.com/Death-Jeffrey-Stapleton-Exploring-Lawyers/dp/193809008X. Excellent book, as I recall.

RM: Of course, one of the big concerns n law is whether something was done intentionally or accidentally. PCT certainly has something to say about that!



Good news:

Hugh Gibbons, 2013: The Death of Jeffrey Stapleton

is now available as a free e-book (pdf) at http://www.livingcontrolsystems.com/files/LCSP_books.html with 9 other important books:

  • Dag C. Forssell (Editor), 2016. Perceptual Control Theory: An Overview of the Third Grand Theory in Psychology. Introductions, Readings, and Resources. (PCT: A Book of Readings)
  • William T. Powers and Philip J. Runkel C, 2011. Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Approaches to a Science of Life
  • Phil Runkel, 2003, People as Living Things: The Psychology of Perceptual Control
  • Timothy A. Carey, 2006. The Method of Levels— How to do Psychotherapy Without Getting in the Way
  • Dag C. Forssell, 2008. Management and Leadership: Insight for Effective Practice
  • Timothy A. Carey, 2012. Control in the Classroom — An Adventure in Learning and Achievement
  • Phil Runkel, 1990/2007. Casting Nets and Testing Specimens — Two Grand Methods of Psychology
  • Hugh G. Petrie, 2012. Ways of Learning and Knowing: The Epistemology of Education
  • Hugh G. Petrie, 1981/2011. The Dilemma of Enquiry and Learning

RM: Yes, it’s kind of a version of the Test. I would say it’s a test of what perceptions a speaker could control. If speakers can tell that the repeated sounds are different (when they are – I hope they included some “catch” trials) then they could control them (if they are able to do what’s necessary, articulation-wise, to produce those sounds). I believe such tests have been done to show that speakers of languages that don’t make the “R” vs “L” distinction cannot perceive that difference when it is produced artificially, which is why they can’t reliably control for producing that difference.

RM: I think there are some really interesting observations described in this post. But your explanation of the the failure to completely compensate for the disturbance in the Katseff et al. is not plausible. You say it is a result of conflict between systems controlling articulation and those controlling auditory input. You say:

BN: The error output from control of the intended word (should be head, feels like had) and the error output from control of the intended sound (should be [ 3], sounds like [ɪ]) counter each other, so that the sound in the headphones is somewhere in between hid and head.

RM: So you say that the failure to compensate completely for the disturbance results from a conflict between the system controlling for the “intended word” and the system controlling for the “intended sound”. From the context of the paper it is clear that by “intended word” you mean the intended articulatory feeling. So you explain the speaker’s failure to completely resist the disturbance as a result of conflict between systems controlling two different kinds of variables - sounds and proprioception.

RM: But such a conflict is unlikely, not only because those two variables are different types but because the state of one variable ( sound) depends on the state of the other (articulation). You say the conflict results from the sound controller perceiving hid and the word controller perceiving had so that the resulting sound that is produced is somewhere between these two sounds. But if the “word” controller were perceiving the articulatory pattern for had then that is the sound that would be heard by the sound controller, not hid. If the sound controller hears “hid” it’s because of the changed feedback connection between sound output and sound input.

RM: If the intended sound is head and the perceived sound is something between hid and had then it must be because the speaker is unable to produce the articulatory pattern that will compensate for the change in the feedback function that turns the articulation produced sound output into heard sound. The results of the Katseff et al.study, then, have nothing to do with conflict; they have to do with the fact that the speaker is simply unable to compensate for the disturbing change in the feedback function. I think the speakers in that study are in a situation similar to the one you would be in if you were trying to speak in your normal voice after inhaling helium. Helium changes the feedback connection between the sounds you produce and the sounds you hear. And it’s a change that is impossible to overcome by changing your articulation in a way that would produce a much lower sound if you were speaking using air rather than helium.

RM: An important rule in testing for controlled variables is not to test whether a hypothetical controlled variable is, indeed, controlled using disturbances that could not possibly be resisted if it were.