The hydra sprouts yet another head

[From Bruce Abbott (971201.2030 EST)]

Rick Marken (971201.1530) --

Bruce Abbott (971201.1550 EST)

I agree with Mark Twain: if heaven is anything like the way it's
described, I don't want any part of it.

Since I was talking about "PCT heaven", I think it's nice that
you have finally admitted that you want no part of PCT. I would
find you a lot more tolerable if you would just admit that you
are arguing against an idea (PCT) that you find intolerable
instead of trying to make us think that you are arguing for an
idea (PCT) that you love.

It's not that I don't like PCT, it's that I don't agree with some of what I
call "meta-PCT." These are views that have little or nothing to do with
control theory per se, but which one must adopt in order to be accepted as a
"true" "PCTer." (Example: the belief that PCT has failed to win over
"conventional" psychology because "conventional" psychologists do not wish
to risk their careers, or were brainwashed in grad school, or are being paid
to stay in line by the CIA and, oddly enough, Oliver Stone.) So I differ
with the Convinced on a number of points, so what? I think I've gained a
working grasp of control theory, understand how these systems can be
arranged in hierarchies, know how to develop working control simulations,
and understand that most behavior serves to control certain perceptions. If
you can't tolerate a little diversity, I suggest you try therapy (maybe by
going up a level or three).

Under my definition of "cause" the statement is true; under yours
it isn't.

This is more than a word problem. It's an understanding problem.
I think that it is very possible that you do understand what's
going on here -- that you can't study a closed loop system in
the same way that you study an open loop system -- and that you
simply reject the implications (that psychology has to start the
study of behavior all over again, using a new methodology). You
may just be trying to use words to defend the psychological
status quo that you so admire.

Ah, just using WORDS. I think I spy a new hydra head amid the crowd of them.

Perhaps this is why you say things
like what you say to Bill in Bruce Abbott (971201.1700 EST):

What other method is there, than to manipulate some variable under
controlled contitions and observe what happens to other variables
in the system?

Sounds like it's to the point, but it's a misdirection.

Yep, good ol' misdirection, that's what it is. Just like David Copperfield.

PCT doesn't
say that we should study living systems using some method other
than "manipulating a variable under controlled conditions and
observing what happens to other variables in the system".

So, both "conventional" psychologists and "control theorists" agree that the
only way to understand how a system works is to manipulate variables under
controlled conditions and observe what happens to other variables in the
system. I could have _sworn_ you said research by "conventional
psychologists" was all crap because they do this.

PCT explains
how to do this manipulation when some of the system variables _may
be_ in a closed loop relationship. You are trying to use words
to make it seem that conventional psychologists have been studying
behavior the right way all along -- because it's the only way to study
behavior.

Ah, there it is again, trying to use WORDS. Well, you got trouble, my
friend, right here in River City, trouble and that starts with T and that
rhymes with P and that stands for Pool. Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble
--- WORDS, like "gee whiz" and ---- well, you know the rest (from the Music
Man). Oh, my, not WORDS! And trying to USE them, no less! Criminal!
(Actually my claim is that the method per se is not the problem, and that
for certain types of question it can yield perfectly valid results. I make
no claim that this mythical group called "conventional psychologists"
applies these methods correctly where closed loops are involved.)

But this is self-deception. There is a difference -- a BIG
difference -- between what conventional psychologists do when they
"manipulate some variable under controlled contitions and observe what
happens to other variables" and what a control theoriest does when
he does this. The difference (which you steadfastly refuse to
recognize as important) is described in my "Dancer..." paper.

That's me, all right, the Self Deceiver (not to be confused with the Self
Mover). The difference is that the control theorist does it with a little
flourish, right?

When I said I would hold other conditions constant while varying
the disturbance, I did not include the output, which is after all
the dependent variable whose changes are to be accounted for.

But the output is not _just_ a dependent variable. It is also a
_confounding_ variable because it varies along with the IV and
contributes to the variance in the DV (the output itself). Calling
the output a DV is another linguistic trick; an attempt to make
it seem like there is no closed loop (effect of output on itself)
when there is. It's just another example of the kind of dopey things
you have to say to defend an incorrect point of view (the causal
model of conventional psychology).

Another linguistic trick! Pay no attention to this man, ladies and
gentlemen, it's just another linguistic trick! Do not be deceived by his
clever talk and promises of a better tomorrow. Not only is he extremely
clever, he's dopey as well! Duh, you talkin' ta me?

See. There you go with "the only way to study behavior is by
manipulating variables under controlled conditions and observing
changes in other variables".

Imagine that -- Rick Marken playing Ronald Regan. Who wouldda thought?

Both conventional IV-DV methods and the TCV can be described as
"manipulating a variable under controlled conditions and observing
changes in other variables". But the two methods are different in
some very important ways -- ways that you could learn about by
reading my "Dancer.." paper. You _could_ learn about it, that is,
if you weren't busy defending the demonstrably indefensible
status quo to yourself.

Been there, done that, understood it; it's still "IV-DV." (I know, in the
Test you look for _lack_ of effect.)

I think PCT would get a lot more milage out of your interest in
it if you would devote your energies to writing a paper about
"Why PCT Sucks". So far, your efforts to write the paper on
"PCT: The great new model of operant behavior" have been manifestly
unimpressive. Why not get in touch with yourself Bruce. Do what you
clearly love to do. Tell conventional psychologists what a dangerous,
wrongheaded piece of crap PCT is. Then maybe they'll pay attention
to it;-)

I'll pass. But thanks for the refreshing appeal to emotion,
misrepresentation, and irrelevancies. I was getting really tired of having
to deal with logical arguments.

Most sincerely sincerely,

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (971202.0610 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (971201.2030 EST)--

We have a problem, Bruce. I've been trying as hard as I can for many posts
to lay out what is different in the PCT view of behavior, as compared with
the traditional psychological view. Each point I have tried to make has
been rejected by you, on the basis that psychologists are already doing
everything correctly, and that the differences are just a matter of which
words you prefer to use in describing phenomena. The implication is that
all PCT has to offer to our understanding of organisms is a little jargon
and some strange interpretations of behavior that can easily be translated
into more normal interpretations of equal validity. It seems to me that
your entire effort has been devoted to removing any threat that PCT might
offer to conventional views of behavior.

Obviously, as long as I continue to push you will continue to push back,
assuming that your objective remains the same. By your view, my pushing is
the cause of your resistance. From my view, however, your _objective_ is
the cause of your resistance. Any point that arises during a discussion of
PCT that produces a noticeable tendency to change some traditional concept
of behavior in which you believe will be resisted, whether I or anyone else
brings up the point, or even if it simply occurs to you as you think about
PCT.

I'm guessing, of course. I don't know what your objectives are. I could be
quite wrong. In fact, I would be happy to learn that I am wrong. A lot of
this discussion has been frustrating and unpleasant for me, as it must have
been for you. One way you could show me that I am wrong would be to list
the ideas in traditional psychology that in your view _are_ in conflict
with PCT, that would need to be changed if PCT is valid. Are all the errors
only errors of omission, as you have implied? Or are there any basic
concepts that would have to be judged wrong if PCT is judged right?

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Abbott (971202.2032 EST)]

Bill Powers (971202.0610 MST) --

We have a problem, Bruce. I've been trying as hard as I can for many posts
to lay out what is different in the PCT view of behavior, as compared with
the traditional psychological view. Each point I have tried to make has
been rejected by you, on the basis that psychologists are already doing
everything correctly, and that the differences are just a matter of which
words you prefer to use in describing phenomena.

I don't doubt that this is your impression of my argument, but from where I
sit it is so wildly out of tune with what I was actually trying to get
across that I do not even recognize it. A decidedly inaccurate and unfair
summary of my position.

I have NOT claimed that "psychologists are already doing everything
correctly" (or anything close to it).

I have NOT claimed that the differences between conventional research in
psychology and research informed by PCT are just a matter of words.

The implication is that
all PCT has to offer to our understanding of organisms is a little jargon
and some strange interpretations of behavior that can easily be translated
into more normal interpretations of equal validity.

Unfair. Never said or implied that.

It seems to me that
your entire effort has been devoted to removing any threat that PCT might
offer to conventional views of behavior.

From my perspective, it is possible to accept and apply control theory to

human (and animal) behavior without simultaneously rejecting everything
learned in the past 100+ years of psychological research. I view this idea
that everything must be swept away as an extreme position that is not
supported by a rational and informed evaluation of psychological research.
In my view, control theory has a strong contribution to make in psychology,
but not in the sense you seem to believe (i.e., sweeping everything else
away). I see PCT as offering a more fundamental analysis of the behaving
organism than typically found in psychology, and for that reason more
powerful than the purely descriptive or quasi-mechanistic accounts that now
dominate the field. It shows that some conclusions drawn on the basis of a
different analysis must be incorrect. But PCT does not attempt to answer
many (perhaps most) of the questions addressed in "mainstream" psychological
research, and for that reason offers no immediate replacement for it. There
is in my view a reasonable ground to hold between the view that such
research is "worthless" and the view that such research is all wonderful
(the view I am frequently accused of holding but do not), which admits PCT
as a significant advance, and that is the ground I am defending.

Obviously, as long as I continue to push you will continue to push back,
assuming that your objective remains the same. By your view, my pushing is
the cause of your resistance. From my view, however, your _objective_ is
the cause of your resistance. Any point that arises during a discussion of
PCT that produces a noticeable tendency to change some traditional concept
of behavior in which you believe will be resisted, whether I or anyone else
brings up the point, or even if it simply occurs to you as you think about
PCT.

Isn't it interesting how perceptions can differ? From my point of view, any
push on my part to have you even consider slightly moderating your (from my
perspective, extreme and partly misinformed) position is immediately met
with a barrage of counterarguments. I have the strong impression that you
do not waste even a microsecond attempting first to understand what I am
really saying or evaluating whether it might just have some merit. The
rejection comes first (often without fully understanding what I am
proposing) and then the scramble is on to justify the rejection.

I'm guessing, of course. I don't know what your objectives are. I could be
quite wrong. In fact, I would be happy to learn that I am wrong. A lot of
this discussion has been frustrating and unpleasant for me, as it must have
been for you. One way you could show me that I am wrong would be to list
the ideas in traditional psychology that in your view _are_ in conflict
with PCT, that would need to be changed if PCT is valid. Are all the errors
only errors of omission, as you have implied? Or are there any basic
concepts that would have to be judged wrong if PCT is judged right?

Good questions. I'll think about it. But perhaps you would find my _view_
of current psychological research and theory more interesting. It's
probably not quite what you have come to believe it is.

All the best,

Bruce

[From Rick Marken (971202.1820)]

Bill Powers to Bruce Abbott --

One way you could show me that I am wrong would be to list the
ideas in traditional psychology that in your view _are_ in
conflict with PCT, that would need to be changed if PCT is valid.
Are all the errors only errors of omission, as you have implied?
Or are there any basic concepts that would have to be judged
wrong if PCT is judged right?

Bruce Abbott (971202.2032 EST)--

Good questions. I'll think about it. But perhaps you would
find my _view_ of current psychological research and theory
more interesting. It's probably not quite what you have come
to believe it is.

I'm sure I speak for Bill when I say that I would be happy to
hear your view of current psychological research and theory
_after_ you have answered Bill's questions. However, I think
its fair for you to consider "current psychological research
and theory" as part of the ideas of _traditional_ psychology.
I think Bill would be happy (as would I) to see your list of
ideas in _non-PCT_ psychology that in your view are in conflict
with PCT.

I have the ugly feeling that your answer to Bill's question will
be something like: Well, psychology used to have a lot of ideas
that conflicted with PCT but those conflicts don't exist anymore
in current psychological research and theory. If you do answer
this way, I take no reponsibility for Bill's reply, even if
he uses my favorite A word (hint: it's not Abbott):wink:

Bruce Abbott (971202.2040 EST) --

It's not really necessary to to this post since Bill Powers
(971202.1608 MST) already exposed your mistakes. I am glad
to hear that you are still working on the write-up of the
weight control experiment. I agree that I haven't produced that
much in the way of published PCT research -- I'm not nearly as
capable as you -- but I have published _some_ (admittedly
mediocre) stuff, which is currently infintely more that what
you have produced (of any quality), which is _none_.

Best

Rick

ยทยทยท

--

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

[From Bill Powers (971203.0744 MST)]

Rather than continue and escalate this argument, let me tell you where I
stand.

1. I'm not interested, as a theoretician, in general facts about behavior
that are true only of some people (or animals) some of the time. What I
mean by a "generalization" is something that is generally -- that is,
always and under all circumstances -- true, as far as we know now. As in
"GENERAL theory of relativity."

2. I don't want to consider environmental quantities as having any special
psychological properties. My basic assumption is that they affect organisms
only as direct physical effects on the body or as sensory effects on
perceptual signals at the intensity level. To explain what happens after
that we must learn how the organism works, inside.

3. It would matter greatly to me if a person of your abilities were to help
build the PCT view of behavior under these principles. If you don't want to
do that, then what you do doesn't matter to me with regard to building the
theory -- I'd be back where I was before you got interested.

I have been foolishly arguing with you in an attempt to change your views
on certain things; to make them more like mine. An addiction to controlling
others is as hard to shed as an addiction to drink, dope, or tobacco. I
will try to get rid of it, or at least to abstain today, and possibly
tomorrow. If I begin to do it again, just tell me to stop. I might even stop.

Best,

Bill P.