The CEO, The Printer, and Control

I find David Goldstein's posting about the CEO and the printer a little
troubling because it suggests that PCT can be successfully used to
manipulate or maneuver others to our own ends.

In many ways, that is very close to what I have always viewed as a terrible
distortion of what Skinner had to say about reinforcement. Skinner defined
reinforcers operationally, that is, food isn't a reinforcer in an absolute
sense but only if it acts to reinforce certain behaviors (and this is the
case under a limited set of conditions, e.g., being hungry or in a deprived
state). Owing to our lack of knowledge of what might be termed "internal
states," this has always meant to me that, more often than not, we really
don't know what is or isn't acting to reinforce a given behavior. Moreover,
Skinner maintained that the only predictable response to control was
countercontrol. I have always taken this to mean that attempts by me to
manage your behavior through my manipulation of your reinforcers is a futile
exercise -- A) it's a dicey proposition from the outset, B) you see right
through it, and C) you might react in ways that I would find unpleasant.

Several digests back, Bill Powers commented about the futility of trying to
use PCT to control others. My own modest grasp of PCT suggests that direct
control of others through applying PCT is impossible (although I can see in
rough outline some ways PCT might contribute to improving the practice of
managing performance).

On the other hand, if PCT can be used to control the behavior of others, or
even manage it in reasonably effective ways, the future of PCT is
guaranteed: all PCT needs is a little shrewd marketing and the control
freaks will be lining up, wallets in hand and drooling at the prospect of
realizing at last the reference condition for the perception they like to
control; mamely, their own sense of control.

Which is it?

Regards,

Fred Nickols
nickols@worldnet.att.net

I think it is true that if someone knows what I care about, he/she is
in a much better position to disturb this experience and structure
things so that I may be more likely to consider one course of action
rather than another.

However, unless I act impulsively, it is very unlikely that the person
can really count on me doing one thing rather than another thing. If I
take time to reflect, my actions become less predictable.

I may have different connotations than you do about the word
"manipulation." I see myself as acting on my environment to control my
experiences. I manipulate my environment.

I usually am more direct with people and I usually do not lie but....I
did in this case. Is that what bothers you? The social situation is
one in which the CEO takes on a kingly or master attitude. We are all
tired of it. I counted on him being him, and in the example, it produced
the result I wanted. It could have gone wrong or differently in any
number of ways. There was no way that I could force him against his
will to do something he really didn't want to do. I gave him an
opportunity to be boss man over me and he grabbed it like a fish going
for a fly or worm.

ยทยทยท

From: David Goldstein
Subject: Fred Nichols post on " The CEO, The Printer, and Control "
Date: 08/30/97

[From Fred Nickols (970901.0700 EST)]

David Goldstein (970830)

I may have different connotations than you do about the word
"manipulation." I see myself as acting on my environment to control my
experiences. I manipulate my environment.

I don't think so. I manipulate my environment, too, and people are usually
a part of it.

I usually am more direct with people and I usually do not lie but....I
did in this case. Is that what bothers you?

No. As a matter of fact, the lie escaped me.

My concern had to do with giving the impression that PCT was some
new-fangled, far superior way of manipulating people (i.e., getting Person A
to do what Person B wants WITHOUT Person A knowing what is going on).
"Surreptitious manipulation" is how Rick Marken, I think, phrased it in his
comment on my posting. I think PCT does indeed offer an approach to
managing performance that is far superior to, say, behavior modification,
but PCT works best, or so I think, by way of communication and negotiation
(something I also think Rick mentioned).

Does surreptitious manipulation occur? Of course it does; that's why
"manipulation" doesn't require "surreptitious" in front of it to convey that
thought. Is all manipulation surreptitious or "bad." Of course not; see my
agreement with your definition above.

Anyway, I wasn't trying to be critical or question what you had done; I was
simply trying to point out that if PCT acquires a reputation as the latest
"silver bullet" for those who wish to surreptitiously, self-servingly
manipulate the bejeezus out of other people, then it will likely become the
darling of those who are so inclined--until they find out that it doesn't do
what they had hoped; namely, give them control over others. At that point,
it will fall from favor, so to speak, and more damage than good will have
been done.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
nickols@worldnet.att.net