The Electric PCT Acid Test

[From Rick Marken (960606.1400)]

Jeff Vancouver (960606.1345 EST) --

I would not question that control is a fact, but I would question the
premise that is it the fact that explains all of behavior.

When I say that behavior IS control, I don't mean that control _explains_
behavior. I mean that what we see as and have been calling "behavior"
(pressing buttons, checking answers, lifting weights, turning knobs) is just
an aspect of the phenomenon of control: a controlled variable, an action that
affects a controlled variable or a visible (and irrelevant) side effect of
controlling a variable.

Me:

I find that the best way to determine whether a psycholgist understands
control is to watch what he or she does, not what he or she says. The
psychologist who says "control theory is the greatest thing since sliced
bread" while manipulating independent variables to determine their effect on
behavioral responses, does not understand control.

Jeff:

This is where we begin to part company and where those who might have
been interested turn away because it is so antithetical to previous beliefs.
But we part company because I think you are wrong.

I agree with you completely. This is exactly where I part company with you
and others interested in PCT. The difference between conventional IV-DV
research and the PCT version of IV-DV research called "The Test" (where the
DV is typically a hypothetical controlled variable and we look for LACK of
effect of IV on DV) may be subtle but it is essential. Even if a person
cannot formally articulate the difference between conventional and PCT
research, he or she will end up doing research a la PCT once he or she
understands behavior from a PCT perspective. No other way of doing research
would make sense.

I find that looking at the methods a person uses to study behavior is a FAR
better indicator of a person's grasp of PCT than the person's verbal
descriptions of the PCT model. I can go to any research paper and quickly
determine whether or not the researchers understand PCT by simply looking at
the Method section. This is how I was able to tell that Carver and Scheier,
who presented an EXCELLENT verbal description of the PCT model in their 1981
book, knew virtually nothing about the basics of PCT.

I agree that the PCT conflict with conventional IV-DV research turns away
many people who might otherwise be interested in PCT; it's a BIGGIE! (I know
because I taught research methods -- even wrote a textbook on conventional
methods -- so I know just how radical PCT is relative to conventional
methods). So I'll keep quiet about it. But research methods still provide the
acid test for understanding PCT. Whether I say anything about the difference
between conventional and PCT methods or not, the fact is that people who
understand PCT will do research that Tests for Controlled Variables; those
who don't, won't.

Best

Rick

[from Jeff Vancouver 960610.1115 EST]

[From Rick Marken (960606.1400)]

Jeff Vancouver (960606.1345 EST) --

>I would not question that control is a fact, but I would question the
>premise that is it the fact that explains all of behavior.

When I say that behavior IS control, I don't mean that control _explains_
behavior. I mean that what we see as and have been calling "behavior"
(pressing buttons, checking answers, lifting weights, turning knobs) is just
an aspect of the phenomenon of control: a controlled variable, an action that
affects a controlled variable or a visible (and irrelevant) side effect of
controlling a variable.

Right, I do not agree with that.

Rick:

> I find that the best way to determine whether a psycholgist understands
> control is to watch what he or she does, not what he or she says. The
> psychologist who says "control theory is the greatest thing since sliced
> bread" while manipulating independent variables to determine their effect on
> behavioral responses, does not understand control.

More Rick:
The difference between conventional IV-DV
research and the PCT version of IV-DV research called "The Test" (where the
DV is typically a hypothetical controlled variable and we look for LACK of
effect of IV on DV) may be subtle but it is essential.

I find that looking at the methods a person uses to study behavior is a FAR
better indicator of a person's grasp of PCT than the person's verbal
descriptions of the PCT model. I can go to any research paper and quickly
determine whether or not the researchers understand PCT by simply looking at
the Method section.

Last time I looked at (or wrote) a methods section I did not put the
hypothesis in it. But the hypotheses may very well be for _no change_ in
the DV. Your input function for determining if a piece of research is
PCT is not mine. I need to be much more careful. Maybe some day I can
be like you.

Whether I say anything about the difference
between conventional and PCT methods or not, the fact is that people who
understand PCT will do research that Tests for Controlled Variables; those
who don't, won't.

I cannot reduce all PCT research to the TEST. It seems to me that you
and many on this net do research that does not involve the TEST. There
are lots of interesting questions eminating for PCT besides - is this a
reference signal. For example, can one create a simulation that closely
matches the behavior of a real person. This is classic research (does
the variability - or lack of - match the variability - or lack of - in the
unit of analysis). But I have had this discussion with you before.
Let's not do it again. Given that we both control for the last word,
one of us will need to reorganize this ECU if we are to stop - you first ;).

Later

JEff