[Martin Taylor 2012.12.16.09.39]
That seems indeed to be the limit of your interest in understanding
PCT – and limiting it is indeed.
I grant that when you are dealing with “the great unwashed”, the
fact that people are always controlling is probably the first thing
that must be got across, and I agree that it is useful to discover
the sets of interlocking variables that are being controlled during
any activity, especially if that activity is a common one such as
walking. But to me the “how” and the “how much” of control is
equally interesting. I know you do modelling, and I expected your response to refer to
that. The parameterized PCT models often do a great job of fitting
what people do. But as you know, there are characteristic
differences in detail between what people do when they control X in
a tracking task and what the “standard” models do when controlling
X, even when the fit of the model is very good in RMS terms. Those
characteristic differences should be clues to where research is
needed, new models to be invented, and so forth. But if you consider
that the research is complete when you have found that a particular
variable is being controlled and that control is good and well
fitted by the model, you have left an opportunity to learn more
about the workings of the control system inside the biological
My own preference is to discover and to use as many different tools
as I can to look at the workings of the brain. And how do you propose to do that if the only allowable research is
to discover the variables being controlled?
This is an engineering difference between us. You have very strongly
said that if the control equations ever lead to a form output =
F(input), the whole thinking is S-O-R. That is simply wrong. The
fact of control leads to such equations. One difference between
control and S-O-R is the existence of the reference value, which
allows you to say that if the person at this moment “likes” what the
disturbance does to the perception, the output will not oppose it,
even though at other times it might have done. Another difference is
in what you have been unnecessarily pointing out in these related
threads (in fact it started with Kent’s hypotheses) that
environmental feedback functions are not fixed. S-O-R approaches
cannot handle that.
Recently you have asserted that Bruce Abbott and I are closet S-O-R
theorists, despite repeated demonstrations that the techniques that
lead you to make that assertion work best when control is good. I
don’t know how Bruce came to PCT, but you may remember that in
Durango Bill said to the audience that I was the only person he knew
who came to PCT from the realization that his own theory was
actually a special case of PCT in action. I think it unlikely that
my approach to PCT research is actually hidden S-O-R thinking poking
through a thin PCT veneer (though of course I can’t be sure).
You see the bogeyman of S-O-R under every bed, and try to scare it
away with so much shouting that you scare away instead the guard
dogs waiting to save the baby from the real bogeymen. The real
bogeymen are not under the bed; they are outside the house. The
guard dogs may not be as skilled as they could become, but many of
them want to be, and never will after you scare them away.
Do you know the old story of Gelert, the faithful guard dog? The
knight Llewellyn went away on some mission or other, leaving Gelert
to guard the baby. While he was gone, a wolf came in. Gelert fought
and killed it, and hid the baby under the cot in case other dangers
appeared. Llewellyn came back and saw all the blood and no baby.
Thinking Gelert had killed and eaten the baby, he killed Gelert, and
almost immediately heard the baby cry and saw the body of the wolf.
When I read this around the age of 8 or 9 I thought it the saddest
story I ever read. The problem is that you are doing this on CSGnet, not in a forum
where the majority of the readers might not understand that
intentional behaviour is control. On CSGnet, I think most people
either joined already believing it or very quickly learned that it
must be so.
I can’t think of any examples of such people you have scared away. I
can think of examples of people you have scared away who knew useful
techniques and understood about control but wanted to learn more
about PCT specifically.
More to the point, look a bit more closely before you leap to the
conclusion that whenever someone says something you don’t really
understand, it must be the S-O-R bogeyman under the bed.
How can I do that? It’s completely open-ended. At the moment I am
interested in investigating the limits of control through the use of
information theory. At another time it might be the investigation of
Kent’s hypotheses of social interaction and personal freedom. Yet
again it might be the kind of study of the evolution of the
artifacts of language and culture about which I talked at the 1993
CSG meeting in Durango. More technically, it might be the
mathematics of the evolution of cultural and/or linguistic
spin-glasses (the spin-glasses are described but not explained in
the “mutuality” presentation on my web site). The characteristic
differences between model and human in simple tracking is another
area that could lead to interesting extension. The structure of
multi-level complex control hierarchies is one to which you
referred. As I think you may remember, I have proposed a different
way in which the control systems for perceptions at and above Bill’s
category level interact with control systems at lower levels. I’d
like to find a way to distinguish these possibilities – and others
that may be thought up by other people.
I think your approach rules out all of these directions of research.
There really are bogeymen out there, but I don’t think there are
many in here. Barking at every shadow doesn’t encourage the people
in here who would like to learn so that they could go out there and
defend against the real bogeymen.
[From Rick Marken (2012.12.15.1645)]
MT: I think this is a reasonable place to make a comment
about something that has been bothering me for quite a long
time. Rick would like PCT to be widely understood
(correctly, of course) and used, as do we all, I imagine.
But he frequently asserts that the only valid research that
should be done with PCT is to search for “the controlled
variable”, as though everyone controlled the same variables
all the time.
RM: What I am pushing is the idea that research aimed at
understanding behavior should be aimed at determining the
variables that are being controlled when we see a person doing
some behavior of interest, like walking, talking of playing
MT: Furthermore, in
this and related threads, Rick has strongly defended the
position that PCT cannot tell you anything about what
happens inside a person’s head (except what variable s/he is
RM: That's news to me. It's not only controlled perceptions
that are in a person’s head (according to PCT); it’s the
references for these perceptions and memories of these
perceptions, and manipulations of these perceptions in your
head, as imaginings, etc. I would hope that we will eventually
find ways to study all of the “things in your head” that are
posited by PCT.
MT: If you believe that
PCT can tell you something about what happens inside the
head, Rick says you are an S-R theorist, and don’t really
RM: No, I say you are an S-R psychologist if you believe that
what is in your head are processes that convert input
information into outputs. It’s the information processing view
of mind: S-O-R. And PCT shows that it is wrong.
MT:I do not see how
Rick can expect PCT to be considered useful to people who
want to know what goes on inside people’s heads if PCT
cannot provide information about what goes on inside
people’s heads if you understand it properly.
RM: I consider PCT useful to people who want to know what is
inside people’s heads when they control. I know it will not be
considered useful to people who don’t know that people
control, the same people who want to know what goes on between
S and R. So I’m trying to get those people to understand what
control is, how it works and that behavior is control.
MT: If such people
believe Rick, they will look at PCT, learn that it isn’t
what they are seeking, and go on to use other ways of
thinking about why people do what they do. That would be
unfortunate, but I think we have seen it happen on CSGnet
more than once over the years.
RM: If people left CSGNet because they learned that PCT
wouldn’t help them study people as S-O-R or information
processing systems then they were wise to leave because they
were right. If they had stayed they would have just gotten
madder and madder at PCT, unless they were willing to
reorganize their ideas about how behavior works and start
studying it in a new way.
It’s a puzzle.
RM: It's a puzzle to you only because you are misunderstanding my
positions. But I blame myself for any misunderstanding and I’ll
try to be more clear about what my position is.
But in the mean time maybe you could tell be the kind
of research you would like to do that you think I am ruling out.