The method must fit the question

[From Rick Marken (951112.1945)]

David Goldstein (11/12/95) --

Are there some questions which are not answerable by THE TEST

Well, "does god exist?" comes to mind;-)

[Question 1]: Are skills X and Y necessary for learning to read as some
leading researchers were claiming?

[Question 2]: What impact does learning to read have on the skills X and
Y which were known to undergo developmental change in the early
school years?

I don't see how I could have answered [these questions] using THE TEST.

In PCT, "skill" is the ability to control. So skills X and Y must be the
ability to control certain variables -- say the ability to control letter
sequences (spell) and the ability to control upright posture while seated.
So, question 1 is "do you need the ability to control letter sequences and
upright posture while seated in order to learn to read (where reading
could be he ability to control the relationship between what is said and
what is written). Question 2 is then "what impact does learning to control the
relationship between what is said and what is written have on the ability
to control letter sequences and upright posture while seated.

Of course, these might not be sensible questions to ask; we can't know until
we know a good deal more about what variables kids are actually controlling
when they "read, " do "skill X" and "skill Y".

Just because it is possible to string words together in the form of a question
doesn't mean that the result is a sensible question to ask. From a PCT
perspective, most of the questions asked by conventional psychologists ("what
causes aggressive behavior"?, "how does reinforcement shape behavior"?, "what
strengthens the connection between a CS and a US"?, "how does the brain
generate the sequences of actions involved in running"?,etc etc) make no
sense at all.

I am sure there are all kinds of questions for which the traditional
methods are the most appropriate.

Yes, indeed. Questions like "how does heat affect the rate of a chemical
reaction"? how does mass influence force"? etc. Traditional methods
are just the ticket for answering questions about causal relationships in
open loop systems.

While I am convinced that THE TEST can help answer the question:
What is a person's goal in a particular situation, there may be other
methods for doing the same thing. ...For example, Clinical Psychologists
use projective methods to accomplish the same thing. A person is asked
to say what they see when shown an inkblot (Rorschach Test).

This is an interesting point. Psychoanalytic methods are supposed to
reveal unconscious goals. How would we know whether or not they do?
We have a way of confirming the discovery of goals (controlled variables)
using The Test. How do you confirm the discovery of goals using projective



The "X" skill in my study was: the ability to break apart the spoken word into
component parts (word analysis) and the ability to say what the spoken word is
given a sequence of component parts (word synthesis).

Question 1 was: Is word analysis and synthesis skill necessary for learning to
read? Answer: No, but the more you have, the more you will learn from the same
unit of instruction; it helps.

Question 2 was: Does learning to read cause changes in word analysis and
synthesis skill similar to the developmental changes which take place in the
early school years? Answer: Yes. Before learning to read, a child was not
able to analyze or synthesize phonemic size segments but could after learning to
read. They could manipulate syllable size segments.

How would you study these questions using THE TEST methodology?

I feel as though I learned something from the study which I didn't know before.

In a related study, which was the MA thesis of one of my students, we video
taped the children when they were learning. The emotional behaviors of these
children were rated along different dimensions by a group of students blind to
the purpose of the study. The method of teaching was varied: whole word or
phonics. The skill level of the children with respect to word analysis and
synthesis was measured before assignment to conditons. The question of interest
was: Does the emotional behavior of a child learning to read change in a
meaningful way with a reading readiness variable which is known to impact
achievement? Answer: Yes. In this study, I started to look at things from a
PCT view. I used emotional behavior as an index of error signals present. For
example, for a child with low word analysis and synthesis skill, a phonics
approach would be more of a disturbance than a whole word approach.

To shift to the use of projective methods to identify goals--There was a
9-year-old to whom I gave a sentence completion test. He had been removed from
his home by the child protective agency. Many of his completions to very
different sentence stems came back to the idea: I want to be home with my
parents. This was a theme. It was on his mind. So many of the sentence
beginnings were completed in a way which suggested this theme. I don't think
that he deliberately decided to do this. It just happened.

Rick, it is kind of like what you are doing. You want us to understand the
significance of THE TEST so much that you keep repeating the same thing over and

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on how I could use THE TEST to
learn more about word analysis synthesis skill.


From: David Goldstein
Subject: The method must fit the question
Date: 11/13/95, 09:45 pm

<[Bill Leach 951114.07:36 U.S. Eastern Time Zone]

David Goldstein 11/13/95, 09:45 pm

Thank you for your description and I thank Rick for asking. I scanned
your original posting and decided that I had not a clue concerning what
you were talking about. I tend to think that PCT tells us that "Skill X"
and "Skill Y" may not be comparable in fact, no matter what else we might
believe... thus your posting without describing the two was, to me
anyway, meaningless.

While many people here have a great deal of experience in applying the
test I doubt very much that anyone here can tell you how to apply the
test in your specific area of research in a detailed fashion.

To apply the test, it is first necessary to try to think in terms of what
the person might be controlling or trying to control. In your field,
there are quite a few variables that might be controlled that affect what
you are testing.

Your opening question "Is word analysis and synthesis skill ..." is
probably not a PCT question. That is (I surmise that) neither "word
analysis" nor "word synthesis" is a controlled variable. It becomes
necessary then to attempt to find things that are controlled and relate
to these two skills to begin to use PCT to study this issue.

I don't suppose that my comments are very useful except to further note
that your genuine efforts to apply PCT methodology the your work could
provide very useful gains for both fields. I am hardly in a position to
volunteer someone else's time but I would bet that Bill P., Tom B., Rick
M. and Avery A. would be delighted to try to assist you in developing
such process measurements.

Basically though, they would be most able to help you with your "PCT
thinking" as opposed to "tell you what to do" or even reliably tell you
when your methods are not correct. A rather thorough understanding of
what you are doing is important in order to provide a critique, thus it
would be best to try to analyze your thinking about such tests as opposed
to analyzing the test procedure.