The Behavior Show

[From Rick Marken (971014.1420)]

Martin Taylor (971014 10:50) --

A "salute" is what I call a "communicative act."...A "communicative
act" is one in which the controlled perception is of a state of, or
of an action performed by, someone else. One acts so as to get
another person to do something, to know something, to say something.

I think we become aware, at a very early age, that all of our
behavior is potentially a "communicative act" when others are around.
We learn to take into account what our behavior might look like to
others. Although we can't really perceive what our behavior looks
like to others, we learn how to control our own perceptions so that,
as far as we can tell (from looking at people's responses to us),
our behavior gives others the impression we want it to give. We learn
how to control for looking "well-behaved".

One of the things that caught my attention when I was first
learning PCT was the following statement that Bill Powers made
in one of his papers (I think it was the Psych Review paper on
"Quantitative analysis of purposive systems"): "Behavior is not
a show put on for the benefit of others". This really intrigued
me. I liked it because I had always felt this way about my _own_
behavior; I don't like treating (or having others treat) my
behavior as a show put on for the benefit of others; I liked
Bill's statement because it reminded me to treat others as I
would like them treat me -- as a person whose behavior is their
own business.

But, of course, we can't really ignore the fact that our behavior
is, to some extent, a show with respect to others; things we do
disturb perceptions others control and those others will act to
correct those perceptions by disturbing perceptions they think
we are controlling. We are autonomous control systems but we
exist in a society of other autonomous control systems; indeed,
our survival depends, to a large extent, on the fact that we do
exist in such a society. So we have to take into account the fact
that some of our controlling (behavior) will be a disturbance to
the controlling done by others. Successful social relationships
(involving two or more people) require some willingness on the
part of everyone involved to adjust their controlling so that it
doesn't interfere with the controlling done by others.

I now understand Bill's statement that "Behavior is not a show
put on for the benefit of others" to mean that there are
limits -- very strict limits imposed by the fact people are
organized around the control of their _own_ perceptions -- to
how far people can go in trying to adjust their own controlling
so that it doesn't interfere with the controlling of others.

Ultimately, social interaction requires some compromise by all
parties involved in the interaction. Compromise requires that
people become poorer controllers, to some extent. But compromise
is only possible when it involves variables that are not of
critical importance to people.

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Richard Kennaway (971016.1550)]

Rick Marken (971014.1420) --

Ultimately, social interaction requires some compromise by all
parties involved in the interaction. Compromise requires that
people become poorer controllers, to some extent.

Really? How about controlling for engaging in social activities? That is
not something that is done more poorly with other people than alone. Some
major goals that are not inherently social are also better controlled by
most people by living among others than alone, e.g. satisfying hunger. I
can do that much more easily by buying food with money people have paid me
for non-food-gathering tasks.

Controlling for not being around people, I'll admit, is more difficult when
one is around people.

-- Richard Kennaway, jrk@sys.uea.ac.uk, http://www.sys.uea.ac.uk/~jrk/
   School of Information Systems, Univ. of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.

[Hans Blom, 971016b]

(Rick Marken (971014.1420))

An admirable post, Rick!

I think we become aware, at a very early age, that all of our
behavior is potentially a "communicative act" when others are
around.

Oh yes. To an enormous extent our "world" is made up of other human
beings. It is ancient wisdom (expressed by sayings such as "God sees
everything") that you'd better reckon with the possibility that
everything you do could well be perceived by someone else (and thus
by _many_ others, given our human tendency to "share information").

We learn to take into account what our behavior might look like to
others.

Why? Because we experience the consequences ourselves. The Karma Law:
our actions arrive back at us. There is a loop, through the world out
there, that lets us experience the "side effects" of our actions,
whether those actions are "intended" or not. Thus it is profitable to
consider _all_ our actions to be intended ones; that is, to perceive/
imagine/ contemplate/ model in as much detail as possible what all
the ultimate consequences of our actions will (or can) be when they
arrive back at us. We may consider many of the "side effects" of our
actions as "unintended", but that is not a good strategy in real
life. Others call behavior which frequently falls back on the excuse
"but I did not intend it" irresponsible.

People see how I _act_, not whether how I act is intentional or not;
intentions are well hidden ;-). Someone else's perception (model?
imagination?) of my intentionality will therefore often be pretty
unreliable. I cannot count on it that others understand me (the "me"
that is embodied in my reference levels) from the way I act/talk/post
here. And I'd better know it.

Although we can't really perceive what our behavior looks like to
others, we learn how to control our own perceptions so that, as far
as we can tell (from looking at people's responses to us), our
behavior gives others the impression we want it to give. We learn
how to control for looking "well-behaved".

This sounds a bit negative. In my philosophy :wink: I would say that
looking "well-behaved" (if not overdone!) is usually very much to our
own self-interest. Although we can't perceive how others perceive us,
that does seem to be something that we are well able to "model" --
internalize.

One of the things that caught my attention when I was first learning
PCT was the following statement that Bill Powers made in one of his
papers (I think it was the Psych Review paper on "Quantitative
analysis of purposive systems"): "Behavior is not a show put on for
the benefit of others".

I fully agree with Bill: I behave because _I_ want to behave. But in
that behavior I'd better also include all those loops through the
environment that exist in other persons.

This really intrigued me. I liked it because I had always felt this
way about my _own_ behavior; I don't like treating (or having others
treat) my behavior as a show put on for the benefit of others; I
liked Bill's statement because it reminded me to treat others as I
would like them treat me -- as a person whose behavior is their own
business.

Yes, the Golden Rule is the basic model, based in the perception that
others are much like me where the most basic wants and needs are
concerned. Remember that "an eye for an eye", which sounds very cruel
these days, once was a piece of wisdom whose introduction _dampened_
conflicts that might otherwise have escalated. Initially, it was an
admonishion to (self-)control!

But, of course, we can't really ignore the fact that our behavior
is, to some extent, a show with respect to others; things we do
disturb perceptions others control and those others will act to
correct those perceptions by disturbing perceptions they think we
are controlling.

This sounds kind of defeatist, Rick, and I hope you don't mean it.
Our behavior is _ours_ to choose/decide on/compute/control, or
however you might want to say it. That in that choice/decision/...
others play a role is only natural: they _are_ there, as part of our
environment, isn't it?

We are autonomous control systems but we exist in a society of other
autonomous control systems; indeed, our survival depends, to a large
extent, on the fact that we do exist in such a society.

Yes, that's the other side: we necessarily _rely_ on others. Now who
would you rather rely on, someone who is friendly to you or someone
who doesn't like you at all? The answer to that, coupled with the
knowledge that _we_ can influence (if not control) how others react
to us will lead to certain types of "optimally adaptive" behavior.
Not because it is enforced, but because we choose it (as optimal)
ourselves.

So we have to take into account the fact that some of our
controlling (behavior) will be a disturbance to the controlling
done by others.

Viewed from the other side, some of our controlling will _enhance_
the controlling done by others. And given "an eye for an eye", as a
rule they will in turn enhance _your_ control.

Successful social relationships (involving two or more people)
require some willingness on the part of everyone involved to adjust
their controlling so that it doesn't interfere with the controlling
done by others.

You make it sound as if it were a zero sum game: if one wins, another
must loose. I don't believe it is: control is most successful if a
win-win situation is created. Isn't that how we experience
friendships? It isn't exactly that I would want everyone to be my
friend; that's impossible. What I mean is that _I_ might be able to
act in such a way that I evoke in others the friendliest attitude
they are capable of.

I now understand Bill's statement that "Behavior is not a show put
on for the benefit of others" to mean that there are limits -- very
strict limits imposed by the fact people are organized around the
control of their _own_ perceptions -- to how far people can go in
trying to adjust their own controlling so that it doesn't interfere
with the controlling of others.

That's just an _intermediate_ goal for me. I am not beyond wanting to
control the behavior of others, if need be. Sometimes that _is_ the
best strategy -- for me. But not generally. Stated more positively,
non-interference might become respect for the wishes of others; that
is, making the wishes of someone else as important as yours. Only
then, I believe, can a win-win situation exist. The ideal situation
exists if both persons are aware of the needs of both and control for
both sets of reference levels. Then there is no conflict but
cooperation. It happens, but far too infrequently. And it requires
that we have an accurate model of the true needs and wishes of the
other. And that requires more openness than most people are capable
of.

Ultimately, social interaction requires some compromise by all
parties involved in the interaction. Compromise requires that people
become poorer controllers, to some extent. But compromise is only
possible when it involves variables that are not of critical
importance to people.

That is true only if needs are truly in conflict, i.e. in belligerent
relationships. In a win-win situation, the persons involved become
_better_ controllers than they could be individually. We daily
experience situations where we need others: to move that large, heavy
table I need someone else's help. There's lots of people wanting to
help me in such situations. To my profit. And ultimately to _their_
profit as well: I might very likely help them out in situations that
they could not manage alone either. An eye for eye, in the positive
sense.

I believe that such win-win situations are what keeps sociality in
organisms going. In humans sociality has reached extremely high
levels. Just look around: how much of what you see (houses, large
buildings, roads, cars, trains, parks, babies...) would have been
possible if done by one individual without assistance from others?

Rick, thanks for an inspiring post.

Greetings,

Hans

[From Rick Marken (971016.1600)]

Me:

Ultimately, social interaction requires some compromise by all
parties involved in the interaction. Compromise requires that
people become poorer controllers, to some extent.

Richard Kennaway (971016.1550) --

Really?

No. Just another one of my ridiculous over-generalizations;-)

How about controlling for engaging in social activities? That is
not something that is done more poorly with other people than
alone. Some major goals that are not inherently social are also
better controlled by most people by living among others than
alone, e.g. satisfying hunger. I can do that much more easily
by buying food with money people have paid me for non-food-
gathering tasks.

I agree 100%. Actually, I'm a big fan of this kind of social
(communal) controlling myself, making me a bit of an odd bird
in the gun totin', individual freedom worshipping, wild West.

When I made my statement above I was thinking of ordinary,
everyday social interactions with friends, lovers, spouses,
fellow workers, etc. In such interactions, interpersonal
conflicts arise frequently; one person wants to go to the movies
while the other wants to stay home; one person wants to solve
the problem using a spreadsheet while the other wants to solve
it using C++; one person wants the light on (to read) while the
other wants it off (to sleep). Such conflicts arise because people
want the same or similar perceptions in different states. The
better the control exerted by the people involved in these
conflicts, the _worse_ (more violent) the conflict. We certainly
do see violent conflicts between friends, lovers, spouses, fellow
workers, etc. but I don't think we see nearly as many as we
would see if people didn't "lower the gain" a bit on their
controlling when they find themsevlves in conflict.

When you lower the gain on a control system you are becoming a
poorer controller of the variable controlled by that system; if
you lower the gain, for example, on the "stay home" control
system you are less able to keep yourself at home. But you have
also reduced the intensity of the conflict with the person who
wants to go to the movies. This _lightening uo_ of the conflict
may make it possible for both parties to find a solution ("stay
home tonight, go to the movies tommorrow night") that satisfies
both -- before they kill each other;-)

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bruce Gregory (971017.1105 EDT)]

Rick Marken (971016.1600)

When you lower the gain on a control system you are becoming a
poorer controller of the variable controlled by that system; if
you lower the gain, for example, on the "stay home" control
system you are less able to keep yourself at home. But you have
also reduced the intensity of the conflict with the person who
wants to go to the movies. This _lightening uo_ of the conflict
may make it possible for both parties to find a solution ("stay
home tonight, go to the movies tommorrow night") that satisfies
both -- before they kill each other;-)

You can also reset the reference level for a variable. This
allows you to continue function as a "good" controller. This
alternative seems to emerge clearly when you become aware of the
control issues involved in a potential conflict.

bruce

[From Bill Powers (971017.1117 MDT)]

Bruce Gregory (971017.1105 EDT)]

Rick Marken (971016.1600)

When you lower the gain on a control system you are becoming a
poorer controller of the variable controlled by that system; if
you lower the gain, for example, on the "stay home" control
system you are less able to keep yourself at home. But you have
also reduced the intensity of the conflict with the person who
wants to go to the movies. This _lightening uo_ of the conflict
may make it possible for both parties to find a solution ("stay
home tonight, go to the movies tommorrow night") that satisfies
both -- before they kill each other;-)

You can also reset the reference level for a variable. This
allows you to continue function as a "good" controller. This
alternative seems to emerge clearly when you become aware of the
control issues involved in a potential conflict.

This is OK in principle but it's hard to do. The more skilled the control
process must be, the harder it is to get two control systems to work in
parallel. The reason is that skilled control requires reacting quickly to
very small errors. This magnifies the small differences in perceptions and
reference levels that are bound to exist between two independent people,
and raises the likelihood that conflict will occur. A similar effect shows
up in fanatical organizations. The people involved think their "shared"
goals are extremely important, and they are quick to criticize and correct
even small deviations from correct behavior. As a result, they get into
squabbles with each other and the organization is very likely to split into
factions, if not break up altogether.

In that paper I wrote for Don Campbell long ago, I suggested that this
might be a reason for specialization at skilled tasks. It's easy to
cooperate on tasks where a lot of slop is allowable, but when there must be
skilled performance, the rule is "one task, one person." Another way to say
this is that if you're too fussy about what you want to see controlled,
you'll find yourself doing it by yourself.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (971017.1400 EDT)]

Bill Powers (971017.1117 MDT)

In that paper I wrote for Don Campbell long ago, I suggested that this
might be a reason for specialization at skilled tasks. It's easy to
cooperate on tasks where a lot of slop is allowable, but when there must be
skilled performance, the rule is "one task, one person." Another way to say
this is that if you're too fussy about what you want to see controlled,
you'll find yourself doing it by yourself.

I agree. My notion was to adopt a non-conflicting goal rather
than to work on the same goal. If you want to leave the light on
in order to read, I might decide to read as well. Or work on
writing the Great Americal Novel. Or...

Bruce