The more I read the more questions I get... 🙈

Thank you Fred!
I’m gonna read it tomorrow.

PCT tries to avoid abstractions, but aspects of PCT are challenging to understand in a way that is similar to how abstractions are hard to understand.

One is that it refers to things that we can’t ordinarily look at, touch, and manipulate. very few of us have direct experience with neurons, synapses, and rates of firing.

A theory seems abstract until you have some ordinary experience that the theory explains. When you are simultaneously controlling the familiar perceptions of the ordinary experience and the less familiar perceptions of the theory, and how the latter explains the former, then the theory no longer seems so abstract.

This is the reason for practicing with the many demonstrations that are provided. That way you will come to understand PCT better than by just reading.

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Hi Mara,
I agree with Bruce here. Contrary to other theories I’ve tried to grasp before (e.g. stimulus-response theory, relational frame theory, dual process theory, cognitive theory etc) the joy of learning PCT is that it applies to every experience you have. This will allow you to build your knowledge from the bottom up.

I remember when I started learning about PCT, I was driving my car in a constantly elated mood, finding out all these ways that we control. Finding the right road, how road signs work, getting angry at other drivers or myself, getting lost and feeling confused. Finding my way and regaining control. Speeding and slowing down. Conflicts between speed and safety.

I’m no longer this aware of PCT in my daily activities, it’s no longer sparkly and new. But it’s everywhere, still. Typing. Getting work done. Supervising students :-).


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Mara as others say you are doing great.

I’ll first answer you top question

I’m sure that behavior can’t be seen in a manner to “control your perception” although many members will not agree. As they don’t show evidences for how behavior can control perception I’ll just direct you to diagram in LCS III (2008) where it’s obviously that behavior is result of control of perception (in comparator) and is used only for producing effects to imediate environment, so it doesn’t control anything. Otherwise it’s mantra in PCT that output (behavior) is not controlled.

We could see many answers of personal experiences with using PCT, but I think that Fred’s suggestion that you should read personaly Powers and his thoughts about PCT is the best way that you’ll understand PCT in it’s original form.

Every oppinion is somehow subjective as we can see also in PCT understanding of human brain. Fred’s superb suggestion of original PCT is really refreshing idea.

Maybe not all what is written in Powers “PCT for the Begginer” will be useful, because some statements were product of Powers changing mind what is quite usual for inventors. PCT is quite unigue theory and if we go through it, you’ll see that it “represent” quite many truth about human life.

As I know what I’ll suggest in future through my presentations on Cybernetics Society to be improved in PCT I’m giving you my subjective understanding of PCT. I made minor adaptations to “PCT for the Beginner” presented on Fred’s link :

  1. PCT is about organisms functioning or how Living beings in general operate to survive

  2. PCT is about goal directed behavior (purposefull) as Cybernetics is. So we can put PCT into Cybernetics theories.

  3. Goals are achieved mostly through feedback loops where actual perception is matched to reference (wanted) perception which produce actions into immediate enviroment, attempting to change perception into wanted perception. Something what happens when people drive cars etc.

  4. The basic idea can be stated briefly: organisms act on their surroundings, the environment, so as to control the effects the environment is having on them. According to PCT, the organism is the controller. It controls what happens to itself, by using the external world. The ability to control gives an organism very powerful ways of surviving. (note that here Powers didn’t consider that also effects in internal environment should be counted in). In my presentation in “Fundamentals - how organisms function from view of Ashby, Maturana and Powers…” you can see that organisms function as closed system producing or maitaining homeostatic state or in Powers literature “predetermind state” through activity of effectors (mostly glands and muscles).

  5. PCT says that every behavior (activity of muscles) produced by any organism has the purpose of affecting some consequence of environmental events, some consequence that has detectable effects desired by or necessary to the organism itself. Organized behavior, according to PCT, is never produced for any other reason.

  6. Organisms generate actions that affect the environment near them, thus altering that environment and creating or changing experiences at many levels in the way desired or intended by the organism.

  7. An organism can’t affect the rising and setting of the sun, moon, and stars. It
    can’t turn back a hurricane, or stop an earthquake. When natural disasters occur, organisms are overwhelmed and die. Organisms can’t control natural forces (external environment), but can influence or modify their effects.

  8. In a manner of speaking, there is really only one organism, called Life. Life survives by altering anything, including itself that reduces its capacity to survive. It does this not perfectly and instantly but well enough and soon enough that we human beings and all those other forms we living control systems have taken are still here.

  9. The word control is used in many ways, but there is only one way it is used in PCT. To control
    something is to act on it in such a way as to bring it to a predetermined state and maintain it there. (my comment) This is in accordance to Ashby’s statement that all behaviors are homeostatic.

  10. Driving down a long straight road, the driver attempts to keep the car in what he thinks is the
    center of its lane. We have to say “attempts” because there are many influences that can push the car to one side or the other, and those influences can be almost as strong as the influence of the steering wheel. The term “influence” is used here because none of these forces on the car is acting alone; the final effect results from all these influences combined, not just from one of them. Note that no one influence, not even the influence of the steering wheel, would be said, in PCT, to “control” the path of the car. The driver’s means of control is the steering wheel. Influence on the car’s path is the only one the driver can vary.

  11. Clearly, the sum of all independent influences, which we can sum up as a net “disturbance,”
    produces a net force on the car and drivers means of control to counteract influences of net “disturbance” and keep the car in wanted path. The angle of the steering wheel must be adjusted to produce a restoring force a little larger than the net “disturbance” (to move the car back where it belongs)

  12. When this happens correctly, we can say that the perception of the car’s position is being controlled relative to a reference perceptual position near the perceived center of the lane. (my comment) Powers himself noticed that we don’t perceive representations of the World but hierarchical perceptual models. So control hapens inside perceptual models created in the brain not in environment. Control happens in organism (the brain) and the effects of control can be seen in environment. Powers himself changed his mind quite some times.

  13. The big question is now how this adjustment of the steering wheel can be produced. The PCT model uses an organization called a “negative feedback control system,” which was first analyzed as a formal and general control system design in the 1930s.

  14. Negative feedback says that if a crosswind is blowing the car to the right, the driver must respond by establishing an angle of the steering wheel to the left (the negative of right). The deviation itself is the basis for the action.

  15. The control system detects deviations and acts according to their direction and size. This means it acts when disturbances occur and start to produce deviations. The first tiny deviations cause actions that tend strongly to restore the proper state, automatically opposing the disturbances.

  16. Clearly there must be a second input to the control system beside the measure of the thing being controlled: a reference input that defines the goal of control. In the case of the driver, it specifies where the car is intended to be in its lane. Note that if the reference standard changes that, too, creates a deviation which the control system will act to correct.

  17. Negative feedback system works as some “line” of cause and effect. They go in a circle. The driver’s hands cause the steering wheel to turn and the front wheels to angle right or left. That produces a force that makes the perception of the car deviate to the right or left. And that deviation causes the driver’s hands to move the steering wheel.

  18. When we “do” something, we are actually controlling something, making it happen by acting
    on the world. If disturbances come up while we’re acting, we simply make the action a little different and keep going. If somehow the action isn’t quite right, so the “doing” starts to change, we can make another adjustment and keep going.

  19. The basic PCT model applies to one single control process; it is part of a larger model called
    “Hierarchical PCT” or HPCT that is made of many levels, each level containing many basic
    control units.

  20. By defining the parts of the basic model appropriately, however, we can apply it to
    any particular control process, something as simple as a spinal reflex, or something as abstract and general as controlling a self-concept. At any level of complexity, the basic parts of the model are the same. My comment : I think this is the greatest part of Powers PCT – control unit analyses (CUA) of the Living control systems. I think this should be presented to the World as greatest achievement of the PCT.

  21. First there is perception. To control something, you have to perceive its present state. Then there is action. To control something, you must act on the world in such a way as to alter the perception – get more or less of it.

  22. Powers gave perfect explanation of his perceptual theory (Making sense of behavior 1998, p.24) : "Our only view of the real world is our view of the neural signal that represent it inside our own brains. When we act to make a perception change to our more desireble state – when we make the perception of the glass change from “on the table” to “near the mouth” - we have no direct knowledge of what we are doing to the reality that is the origin of our neural signal; we know only the final result, how the result looks, feels, smells, sounds, tastes, and so forth…//…It means that we produce actions that alter the world of perception…"

  23. The control task was defined as keeping the car in its lane, but how does the
    driver know whether the car’s position is right or left of where it “should be”? What tells the driver where it should be?

  24. It’s easy for the driver to see where the car is in relation to its lane. But nothing in the scene outside tells the driver where the right position is.
    That has to be learned, and more important, it must exist in the driver as a kind of standard against which the currently-perceived position is judged. The current perception is compared with the standard and the difference determines which way the action will go and how much action there will be.

  25. So negative feedback control is made up of three basic processes: perception, comparison, and action as processes which enable the feedback effect of the action on the perception.

  26. The driver must have a mental picture of how the scene in the windshield will look when the car is in its lane. We call this a “reference perception” or “reference signal” or “reference position”. When the actual perception matches the internally-generated reference perception, the car should be as closeas this driver can get it to perceive being in its lane.

  27. The point is that the driver controls not the actual position of the car, as some external observer might see it, but the perceived position. And that, in a nutshell, is why this theory is called perceptual control theory.

  28. As the reference position changes, the action of the control system makes the real-world change, which causes the perception to change so it tracks right along with the change in the reference position. The actions make the actual perception continue to match the changing reference perception all the way up the ramp, onto the frontage road, along the streets, around the corners and home.

  29. It should not come as a surprise to hear that this changeable reference perception, or reference signal, or reference position, is being altered by another control system, a higher-level system that is concerned not with staying in a traffic lane but with getting home. The getting-home control
    system is using the staying-in-the-lane (or elsewhere) control system as part of its means of control. It gets home by, in part, adjusting the perception of the position on the road where the lower system is told it wants to be.

As you mentioned that you are interested in psychoterapy I’d adviced you, if you will try to use MOL, that you first try to use original PCT for understanding human problems. I think it’s better explaining the problems people might have and solutions that could help them.

Hey Borislav,

Thank you for your lengthy explanation! The vast majority I think I get. I started to read the article ‘PCT for beginners’ so think I will get moe sure of my understanding of PCT.

Kind regards,

Hey Mara,

I’m sure you made the best decission ever. You are on the right way to understanding how organisms really function. That’s the basic idea of PCT what you can see in article 2011 where Bill Powers associated PCT with his best and most devoted friends. But you’ll probably find out a little problem.

Although Bill Powers claimed that PCT is scientific theory he was sometimes to much enthusiastic about friendship and he gave up his main scientific principles when some of his friends were writing about PCT like for example Rick Marken. His understanding of PCT never reached even Bill Powers knees. You’ll also find out that many members have their private theories that can’t be supported with any scientific evidences.

I just wanted to turn your attention to be carefull to keep scientific pathway while reading anything from the PCT because otherwise you could be lost in phylosophy and pure psychology what I can garantee will not lead you to understanding how Living beings really function. I hope you’ll understand where Bill Powers sometimes changed his mind.

So maybe you could test from time to time whether you really got the vaste majority of PCT. But your first observations of PCT and logics of perceptual thinking gave me hope that you’ll become one of rare followers of PCT who could understand how organisms (including nervous system) really function.

Boris, please keep your personality conflict with Rick out of this.

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Right Bruce.

Thanks for the alert. I just wanted to direct to possibility that Rick would want to present his RCT (Ricks Control Theory) which is quite misleading in respect to scientific PCT theory. It can confuse Mara while trying to understand real PCT as scientific theory. It happened before that Rick confused members of IAPCT. Like for ex. article that was criticized by Martin Taylor. It’s very hard to remove destructable consequences of Rick’s writings about “PCT”.

I’ll try not to mention Ricks’ RCT any more although I think it’s necesary if we want to understand what PCT as scientific theory really is.

Rick could really try to present his RCT as stand alone theory without “pushing” it into PCT and even present it as PCT. It’s his original psychological theory and I respect that. But I think it’s wrong if he tries to present it as scientific PCT theory.

You just did. :slight_smile:

I have disagreed with Rick about some things. Some of our views or interpretations may still differ. But it’s all within PCT. Differing views and interpretations are normal, expected, healthy, and necessary in any science. They do not constitute different fields of science. Personalizing it is demeaning to you and distracts from any point you wish to make.

I agree with you Bruce that

But I don’t agree :

First problem is that you are saying that different psychological theories are “inside” PCT as Ricks’ RCT is. See Bill Powers literature and you’ll see that he criticised psychology as wrong interpretation of how organisms function (stimulus-respons). So psychological view does not “correspond” to CEV at least by Powers interpretation, and it doesn’t exist “inside PCT” in other manner then proving what is not PCT.

So mostly psychological theories doesn’t belong into PCT (except as wrong approcah) because they are showing something else as PCT does and so is Ricks’ RCT. Rick can present his view as critical view of PCT, but he is presenting all the time his RCT as PCT. He is saying that PCT says… And this is problematic because he can’t support his statements neither with sicence nor with PCT statements.

I proved that hundred times on CSGnet forum (please see CSGnet archives) and that was the most probable reason why you changed forum to protect Rick and his “fantasy” jouneys in his mind. If you use scientific evidences for talking about organisms functioning and PCT statements then we can say that you are talking about PCT and science. Otherwise you are talking about something else.

Why Martin Taylor criticized Marken’s and Schaffer’s article? Because they are “inside PCT”? They were talking about other theory, some psychological theory where people were following helicopter in “stimulus-respons” manner. Where did you see in real World that people follow exactly movings of the helicopter? Maybe in some comedy movies. People will accompany helicopter with moving their eyes. Maybe.

That’s how scientific theories differ from each other and from other non-scientific theories. In using scientific evidences. And Rick is using wrong evidences what Martin showed and I criticised on CSGnet. I also wanted to respond to Rick’s and Schaffer’s article but I thought that Martin clearly showed what’s wrong with Ricks thinking about PCT and organisms functioning.

It’s about who is right and who is wrong. Who’s different view “correspond” to CEV and who’s not. Do we understand where is the problem of talking about science and PCT and RCT and other theories about organisms functioning? RCT is simply representing something else like many other theories do. You can’t say that every imaginational construct “correspond” to CEV (RR) and PCT.

Are you saying that there is no difference if you say that dogs are the same as cats and elephants are???

If you’ll take a walk through CSGnet archives you’ll also notice that Rick try to put into Bill Powers mouth that he is talking the same as Bill. You’ll be surprised what Bill’s answer was. Or maybe you’ll be not as you probably understand that never two persons can feel and think the same about the same problem.

Second problem is that you are talking about different views in science and that means that interpretations has to be scientific if we want to talk about science. Ricks’ and many others interpretations of organisms functioning are not scientific, because they don’t include scientific evidences, but mostly their imagination. So they are not inside PCT which is by Powers words scientific theory.

The main problem is that Rick tries to show that his RCT interpretation is PCT by saying that “PCT says…” and he doesn’t support that with scientific evidences or with PCT evidences. RCT interpretation is not what PCT says about PCT but what Rick is saying about PCT. And he should just emphasize that he is talking about his view on PCT. Here it’s not a problem if many different views and interpretations are “normal, expected, healthy, and necessary in any science”. Problem is that Rick is not talking about science and what PCT says about PCT, so it’s not about his DIFFERENT SCIENTIFIC VIEW ABOUT PCT, but he tries to present that his view is PCT view, what is simply not truth, so he is not “inside PCT” but outside PCT as Bill described. He is not talking about what Bill wrote or said about PCT as he can’t support his statements with any scientific evidences. Do you understand where is the problem?

Different views have to be first classifyed as science. And RCT has nothing to do with science as also some other private theories do not, because they are not supported with scientific evidences. When views and interperations will be classifyed as science then different views can be classifyed as “within PCT” and WHEN RICK SHOWS SCIENTIFIC AND PCT EVIDENCES we can say that Rick is talking about PCT.

The same problem is with Warren. I warned him several times that I’ll write to Manchester leadership and report him as not using any science in his psychoterapy although I’m not sure how much damage I could make. I asked also Tim Carey for help to persuade Warren to start using science on scientific organization as Machester University is. There I’ll show scientific evidences why Warren does not use PCT as scientific theory but he uses RCT as non-scientific theory. Both theories differe in the essence of being scientific or not. It’s not a problem to talk about PCT from different views. The problem is when somebody says he is talking PCT and he is not, because he can’t prove that.

But I think you know all about these problems. You can’t mix friendship with science. And that’s what you try to do. Defend Ricks’ wrong (non-scientific) understanding of organisms functioning. You are not harming just Rick, but also PCT.

You are still referring to “Rick’s RCT”. Stop it.

You are erecting a really inept straw man argument. Where I talk about disagreements within a developing theory, PCT, you substitute disagreement between PCT and S-R theories.

All the disagreements are within PCT, as indeed there are disagreements and arguments within any science. Not all the disagreeing proposals are accepted within the science. The process that leads to one view being accepted and the other not is a discussion that focuses on the specific terms of the disagreement. You need to focus on the specific things you disagree with. You can’t just say “everything Rick says is wrong”.

No, I did not say that all theories or explanations in the world are included within PCT. If you’re going to keep setting up straw-man arguments you need to at least be plausible. You point to stimulus-response theories as an example. No, that is not what I said. Any stimulus-response explanation is very quickly dismissed in PCT discussions.

The resolution of a disagreement is a collective decision by the scientists in the field. It’s called ‘current scientific consensus’. It is expected to change and evolve over time. It is not determined by who said it, or what the founders of the field said. It is determined by nature. It is determined by devising empirical tests in which one view explains the results of the tests and the other view does not.

Sometimes conflicting views must be sustained for a long time within a field. Is electromagnetic radiation such as light a matter of particles or waves? Physicists still seek to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics.

Familiarity with virtually any scientific theory confronts us with disparity between experienced perceptions and the story that the theory tells. “The fool on the hill sees the sun going down, but the eyes in his head see the world spinning 'round.” How are you doing with all that dark matter in your left forearm? System concepts can be more or less rigid or flexible (Milton Rokeach The Open and Closed Mind). People with rigid system concepts have little tolerance for alternative theoretical frameworks. It’s no wonder some of them reject science altogether. They accept its beneficial applications. They accept its explanations of familiar experiences that are otherwise puzzling to them. That opens a way for them to accept “well, there must be something to it, though I don’t understand it.”

Our project here is the advancement and further development of PCT. Scientists, too, can get rigid and intolerant of alternatives to the theory in which they are most comfortable. What can open the way for them might be PCT explanations of familiar experiences that are otherwise puzzling to them and beneficial applications that are not obtainable by their theory.

For the science, it doesn’t matter who says it. What matters is, does nature agree. “Boss reality” is the boss–even though we don’t know and can’t be absolutely certain what it really is. All we have is our explanations of our perceptions, our theories. Theories are made up of imaginary perceptions. We test them by controlling perceptions in a disciplined way (i.e. controlled at Principle and System Concept levels that we call science), but they remain imaginary. To protect ourselves from that uncomfortable fact, we use the word theoretical rather than imaginary. Well, not just to coddle ourselves, the distinction is precisely that theoretical perceptions must be tested and fantasies often are not.

So stop indulging your fantasies about “RCT” and “Rick’s RCT” and your grandiose fantasy that you and maybe a few other favored people are the only ones who truly understand PCT. Just focus on the specific terms of your disagreement with Rick.

Rick also tends to present his PCT explanations of phenomena as the only possible ways that PCT can explain those phenomena. He recognized this (sort of) in e.g. Rick Marken (2017.06.25.1210):

EJ: I will bring up one example of a change of tone that I believe would make an enormous difference. You say, in the midst of this discussion with Martin, regarding your power law paper --
RM: >... I was amazed that everyone who participated in the debate, even those who have been at this for years, dismissed _the_ PCT explanation of the power law as Alex did. ... [emphasis added for clarity]
[EJ]: I don't think you get to say that your interpretation is "the" PCT explanation. You were obviously hearing from several people well versed in PCT, who disagreed with you. They may have been working towards a different PCT explanation.
RM: Thanks for the suggestion Erling. I suppose I could have said "my PCT explanation of the power law". But I was asked for the PCT explanation of the power law and that's what I gave. If others thought (or still think) that it's not the PCT explanation then they should have provided (or provide now) the actual PCT explanation. I don't understand what it means to be "working towards a different PCT explanation". I think there could only be one.

This was in connection with the power law paper and the pursuit control model of people chasing toy helicopters. In the present topic you have several vague and unsubstantiated claims about that paper.

You refer to a paper by Marken and Schaffer. Please provide a citation and a link to the paper. Where is their claim that stimuli caused their responses, and that they followed exactly? Please provide quotations.

Here is a summary statement in Martin’s response to the Marken-Shaffer paper.

The model they offer may or may not be a correct PCT model for what people do when chasing toy helicopters, but whether it is or not, it contains nothing that would explain why the movements of either people or toy helicopters conform to the power law. It simply asks how people act in order to bring their perceptions of the helicopter’s position in x and y relative to their own position nearer to their reference values for those perceptions (equality). If a power-law relation exists between the velocity of the helicopter or the pursuer and the radius of curvature of either path (and according to their data it does), the reason for that relationship is not addressed by their model, which appears to have been introduced only to bring the ideas (if not the name) of Perceptual Control Theory to the notice of a wider public (in itself a laudable objective, or so I believe). It is quite possible, even likely, that something about the processes involved in the control of certain perceptions accounts for the power law and the variations in the observed power, but Marken and Shaffer do not pursue this line of enquiry.

Martin did not call it S-R. He did not question the control model. He only said that the mathematical explanation for conformity to the power law was untenable because of a mathematical error. The power law is a generalization from empirical observations.

Airing the disagreement publicly did have the virtue of bringing PCT to the attention of a wider audience. For this, I thank Rick and Martin, as I think we all should. I note that the publications are not posted on Rick’s website. Whether deliberately or not, it may have been a personal sacrifice for the benefit of PCT. Rick is deeply committed to PCT, and I can’t rule out the possibility of a long-game perspective.

You repeat a general assertion that some people’s claims are not supported by evidence.

This is false. If you are not familiar with the many results of experiments and models that Rick and others have reported (and there are far more than have been published) then study them before you get a day older. If you are familiar with them, but you claim that they do not support what Rick or others say about control and living control systems, then identify specifically what you think is wrong. If you can’t or won’t do either of those things, then shut up. You have no standing.

You are in no position to “warn” anybody. My perception is that you have reduced your credibility in this forum practically to zero. I invite anyone to contradict that assessment if they think I am wrong.

Here again, you have threatened someone. You admit that you threatened to write to the administration of Warren’s university and tell them that Warren was doing something improper.

Specific citations, please. My recollection is that you have never ‘proven’ anything. You have only posted vague aspersions, ad hominem attacks, and extended quotations from some things that Bill Powers wrote (but not other things that he also wrote). You have produced no reports of experiments or modeling, no proposals for experiments or modeling, no original theoretical proposals that might be developed and tested, nothing, zip, nada.

This is a paranoid fantasy.

But you bring up another question about the relation of a theory to its applications.

Tests of a theory are more strictly constrained than applications of the theory. Applications get to presume that the theory is correct. Newton’s physics enables engineers to build structures, put satellites in orbit, send vehicles to the moon and mars and slingshot them around Jupiter to inspect other planets and their moons. Those who apply the theory are in fact exposing it to Boss Reality, but not as a scientific experiment.

MOL is a clinical application of PCT. The clinical experience is an observable phenomenon of human interaction. PCT is obligated to explain phenomena of human interaction. The MOL process is explained as ‘going up a level’, but the actual process has not been studied in detail, and we have no data adequate for constructing and testing a model.

I believe it will be found to be more complicated than ‘going up a level’. Talking is instrumental in it, and language provides a locus for attention that is ‘beside’ the nonverbal perceptions to which language perceptions ‘refer’. People come for therapy when conflict is distressing to them, and ‘distress’ involves the relationships of the somatic branch of the hierarchy, the limbic system, and memories that are evoked and strengthened in association with the circumstances of the conflict. These subsystemic relationships have not been considered in any PCT model of observed behavior.

Boris, I’ve just pointed to where a lot of research needs to be done. You claim expertise in the somatic branch of the hierarchy. Will you do that research? Or will you just get angry and say nasty things about me?

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your phylosophy is useless. This sort of our discussions are fruitless. Rick’s RCT (Ricks’ Control Theory) doesn’t have any scientific arguments and neither your phylosophy BNCT (Bruce Nevin Control Theory) including MCT etc.

I beleive that’s the main reason why PCT is rotating on one place, going nowhere. You are all rotating words from left to right and vica verse doing practically nothing. When I read contributions on IAPCT meetings it’s like looking into a classroom where students try to understand PCT.

If you want to keep your different “PCT” views on the problem of organisms functioning it’s your way of choosing your life decissions. But it’s obvious that you’ll hardly change anything in your unscientific approcaches to organisms functioning.

You invited me back to discussions here and asked me to show you my presentation on Cybernetics Society how organisms function through my DBCS diagram. You asked me also for detailed explanation when I’ll finnish series of presentations on Cybernetics Society. And I promised you that I’ll do it. And that is all.

As MOL is concerned I’d really like to see “clinical” researches how it works and how efficient it is. I think that Michael Lambert’s researches about “psychoterapy” still stand and his critics about unefficiency of psychoterapy methods. MOL is quite useless method of helping people if something will not change. It’s better to see Lamberts critics for yourself.

As Warren is concerned you help in my decission to really write to Manchester leadership as soon as possible so to stop Warrens replication of RCT (Ricks Control Theory). It will be pure scientific discussion. So you can’t do anything about it beside that you’ll try to “bark” into the Moon. I hoped that maybe you will help to change Warren’s mind as his obligation to scientific explanation which is grounded by the nature of Universities if they are really scientific organizations. Some home-made theories like RCT, BNCT, MCT and so on have nothing to do there.

He, he Bruce it’s obviously that you are provocator of top kind and that you exactly know that you wrote prefectly empty text and you thought that I’ll get angry. To calm you I don’t have any intention or wish to persuade you what is right and wrong in advancing and promoting PCT as scientific theory. You persuaded yourself by inviting me to explain my DBCS on IAPCT. Remember?

I got request to explain my DBCS from many sources. I need time. To really get into the secrets of organisms functioning a lot of work has to be done if we want it to be good or at least on the level of Bill Powers.

But I’d really like to invite you to my next presentations on Cybernetics Society as I really worked hard to harmonize many scientific concepts and specially physiological concepts about “control unit organization” (CUO) of organisms. I think that you can’t imagine the huge multidisciplinary work which was never done before in Cybernetics.

You exactly know what you wanted to achieve with your post and it’s quite clear that you have nothing except your desire to “protect” Rick and RCT, BNCT, MCT etc. That’s what “different views” of PCT is about. Keeping “emptyness” and achieved level of understanding of whatever you think is your “right” understanding about organsims functiong. You are mostly wrong.

Mentioned theories have a little to do with science and PCT and IAPCT will never make any revolution or progress in understanding how organisms really function although you tryed with Rick to make a “revolution”, but we see that it’s not worth of mentioning any progressive tendency.

As I wrote before. Your are very inteligent person and it’s quite natural that you’ll try to preserve what you achieved with various means. You’ll vary your control of “error” until you’ll get close to what you want. it’s highly improbable that you’ll get what you really, really want. But it’s worth of trying. But not with “CV” understanding of how organisms function. It’s wrong approach.

So I’ll just say good-bye and I’ll keep contact to say my oppinion about PCT if anybody like Mara will try to find out how organisms function. Till then I’ll keep my Cybernetics way of presenting organisms functioning and that’s where my researches are directed.

You can research whatever you want. It’s useless if you’ll not come to the conclussion and means to promote scientific PCT and Bill Powers name as inventor of incredibly good theory. I knew from the beggining that I’ll not achieve any advancement in your scientific approcah to PCT. But I at least tried. Knowing PCT as I scientifically understand it, it’s not hard to understand why people are so predictable.

And you are not trying to do anything to understand scientific PCT and organisms functioning. Sorry Richard Pfau, Fred, Kent and Martin are an exceptions. They understand that PCT has to make some step forward so that it will catch modern knowledge in many sciences. I think that also Frank, Eva and Earling understand that. Need not to mention Adam, Alex and their co-workers. I’m sure that they will come faster than IAPCT to basic conclussions about how primitive organisms function so to explain their “Power Law” in detail. They are scientists.

In some sense you are an exception too. You wanted me to present my DBCS theory about organisms functiong when I’ll finnish my presentations on Cybernetics Society. I promised you that I’ll do that and I’ll keep my promise. And that’s all.

I really wish that Mara would come closer to understanding how organisms function. If Mara you’ll have any questions about scientific support to PCT and organsims functioning you can turn to me directly on my e-mail or through ZOOM etc. I think you can ask Richard Pfau, Fred or Kent or maybe Martin how to contact me.

OK, goodbye.

Do you mean he does see it as a stimulus-respons thing? Because I understand it’s circular (and that’s actually kind of logical. I mean we always do and see things from the perspective that we have (and it’s built on all the things we experienced).

Also: I don’t really know if I read it correctly, but do you say there is no psychological theory that’s based on PCT? I’m asking because you often say that some things aren’t scientifically proven and so it can’t be a topic inside PCT.

Hey Borislav,

I’m not sure if you still get updates from the forum. But reading your text left me with some concerns/questions.

Since I’m a psychology student I’m trying to understand how people ‘work’. So there is more than just the biology and mechanics. How is your vision on this within PCT?
Since Psychology isn’t an exact science it needs another approach than the exact science. And that’s, I think, why there exists so much different theory’s around it. In my experience no one theory get’s it all right. I also feel that there is a big overlap with mechanisms just getting adjusted a bit and given another name saying it’s al so different (while there is actually way more overlap and resemblance).

I must say for now I’m going with Bruce’s view, but am interrested in how you see it.

Hi, Mara.

You can ask your questions of any of us.

Bill criticized ‘mainstream’ psychologies, behaviorism and cognitive psychology alike, because of their assumption that stimuli cause behaviors.

Could you spell out a little more clearly what you see as circular?

None of the established psychological theories in which stimuli cause behavior are based on PCT.

PCT includes psychology, but denies that stimuli cause behavior. So there is a psychological theory that is based on PCT.

If we can’t talk about things that haven’t been scientifically demonstrated yet, then we’re not doing science. The point of hypotheses, experiments, and models is to come up with new ideas and test them.

We can talk about anything that concerns the control-system structure and function of living things. What we propose must be consistent with epistemically prior sciences–neuroscience, neurophysiology, endocrinology, physiology, biochemistry, physics.

If not, are we unscientific? Well, first these sciences grow and change by scientists making hypotheses, testing them experimentally, refining theoretical models, submitting all this to peer review, and maybe influencing the ‘current consensus’ of their field. So we may be consistent with ideas that are not fully accepted, and evidence from PCT may be relevant to that discussion. Secondly, PCT may suggest new hypotheses that can only be tested in one of the more specific fields. Henry Yin, a neuroscientist among us, has shown how his fellow neuroscientists are still thinking in linear input-output terms and how they narrowly focus on small neural systems in isolation–that’s in his chapter in the Interdisciplinary Handbook of PCT.

We can talk about any aspect of our subjective and social experience, seeking to explain perceptions-as-experience in terms of perceptual signals in the PCT model. Subjective experience has a bad reputation in scientific circles. PCT offers ways to talk about subjective experience and explain it scientifically. This kind of topic is inherently more interesting to all of us because subjective experience is where we live, it’s our reality, but it’s also liable to criticism as being ‘unscientific’.

The crucial distinction to anchor to is control: living things do whatever works to make their perceptions be the way they want them to be. The observable ‘doing whatever works’ is the behavior or ‘behaviors’ that other theories are concerned with. PCT has demonstrated that there is no way to make sense of behavior until you identify the perceptions that the organism is controlling thereby.

Stay anchored to that fundamental fact of our science, and there is not so much appearance of overlap and resemblance to the mechanisms proposed by other theories.

That said, I have been proposing that there are phenomena that PCT researchers have not investigated. Other schools of psychology have their stories about these phenomena. Their stories are ignorant of controlled variables, but we can still look at the phenomena. I mentioned hypnotism, for example.

I believe it is important to understand the functioning of the limbic system, the brainstem, and what Bill called the somatic branch of the control hierarchy in relation to the more familiar behavioral branch. I believe this opens the way to a PCT explanation of how environmental ‘stimuli’ can influence how an organism adjusts reference values and gain for controlling its perceptions. By this ‘back door’ rewards and punishments influence us, even though stimuli do not cause behavior. This is somewhat controversial within PCT because of a familiar argument that all the old work in psychology needs to be thrown away as worthless, and psychology needs to begin all over on a new PCT foundation. I think my proposal may make it easier for people to understand and accept PCT even if they are trained in the old S-R framework.

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Hey Bruce,

Thanks for your response. I know I can ask my questions to all of you. I was just getting a bit triggered (in a more defensive way) to the things Borislav said.
I don’t believe things are only right because they are scientifically proven. We all experience things and so we go from that experience to understand the world and the people around us.

I’m going to try to clarify what I meant in my messages above.

Maybe circular isn’t the right word, it’s more like a spiral with things that influenced us and our perspectives in the past and the things that we do or perceive or… are influencing things now and in the near future. There isn’t an exact beginning, nor an ending.

That I do understand, and as I understand MOL is the psychological theory that’s based on PCT.

I completely agree with you, that’s why I’m confused with what Borislav said and why I want him to explain his idea.

Interesting! I don’t understand actually how people still think that things are standing on its own. I don’t mean it in a rude way, it’s just that I think it’s logical that you can’t pinpoint an exact beginning nor an exact ending (because it’s all, how I understand it, a very complex web of (all) things influencing eachother in many different ways.

Does ‘all the old work’ means everything from systems theory to cliënt centered theory, attachement theory,…? That’s like saying everybody was completely wrong before…
I believe there are truths in every psychological theory I’ve seen so far. In some I find more things that I can relate to than in others, but still there is truth in there.

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Hi Mara

This idea may come from something Bill Powers said in the Foreword to my book MIND READINGS: Experimental Studies of purpose (which I recommend to you as well as the books on PCT that are listed at my website). In that Foreword Bill said the following:

“Nearly every model in these papers…is the sort that ought to convey to a reader a straightforward message: if the phenomenon you see here really works as the model shows it to work, then a whole segment of the scientific literature needs to be deposited in the wastebasket”.[emphasis mine].

The phenomenon Bill was talking about is the phenomenon of control: the process of producing preselected (goal) results in a disturbance-prone world. The segment of the scientific literature that needs to be “deposited in the wastebasket” is the behavioral science research literature that is based on looking for “statistically significant” relationships between stimulus input (independent) variables and behavioral output (dependent) variables.

The problem with this research is that it ignores the existence of the variables that organisms are controlling: controlled variables. Controlled variables are the central phenomenon of control but their existence implies that behavior is purposeful and that is something up with which behavioral scientists have not been able to put. But when organisms control variables in their internal or external environment, their behavior appears to be caused rather than purposive; caused by external stimuli, internal programs or the consequences of their actions. Thus we have the three general approaches to understanding behavior in psychology: S-R, cognitive and reinforcement, respectively…

So it’s true that PCT suggests that nearly all behavioral research was, as you say, “…completely wrong before” but it’s not true because behavioral scientists were (or are) being stupid. It’s because control (purposeful behavior) looks like caused behavior(S-R), programmed output (cognitive) or selected responses (reinforcement).

While I do agree with Powers that a whole segment of the scientific literature needs to be deposited in the wastebasket, I think one should look it over before tossing it to see if any of that work provides hints about what variable(s) the participants in these studies might have been controlling. Research based on PCT starts with hypotheses about the nature of the variable(s) around which the behavior under study is organized. This is a kind of research that has never been done in the behavioral sciences; it’s a truly revolutionary approach to doing behavioral research, which is described in my most recent book, The Study of Living Control Systems, which is the fist book listed at my books website.

I hope you will take a look at some of the books listed at my website. You seem to be most interested in the clinical implications of PCT so Tim’s “Methods of Levels” and Tim and my “Controlling People” might be most interesting to you. But if you really want to get into PCT I think it would definitely be worth it for you to have a go at MIND READINGS and MORE MIND READINGS.

Best regards


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Boris has ‘triggered’ a number of people. Despite repeated requests to be civil, he persists with ad hominem insults and outright threats, so when he said ‘goodbye’ I suspended his account indefinitely. My action will be reviewed by the IAPCT Board of Directors. He will probably rejoin under a different name. We will deal with that if and when it occurs.

I don’t like being in this role. As more of us participate in collective control of civility and comity here, no individual will have a ‘police’ role imposed on him or her.

Yes, the trial-and-error learning process by which we refine our perceptual input functions, our reference values for them, and our output functions for controlling those inputs.

There are at least three such circular feedback processes at different time scales: the control loop; the slower learning loop of adjustment and reorganization during the development and maturation of the individual, trying alternative ways of controlling and retaining those that work; and across generations the evolutionary process in which those individuals that control most competently are most likely to bring offspring to maturity, which is the definition of ‘survival of the fittest’. I wanted to make sure that you meant the second of these and not the first.

MOL is a clinical application of the psychological theory that is based on PCT.

Re tunnel vision in neuroscience: I think they’re still stuck in the computer analogy of the brain. If the hippocampus is associated with X then it’s analogous to the X-chip on a computer’s circuit board, so just as we might reverse-engineer a chip made by some foreign manufacturer, let’s reverse-engineer the hippocampus. Trouble is, the hippocampus (or whatever functionally and anatomically identified part of the brain) has diverse connections and the functions are not so entirely compartmentalized.

Rick has answered the ‘throw it all away’ question in respect to experimental psychology. There are also problems with schools of clinical psychology insofar as they try to change objectionable behavior, rather than letting that be a consequence of the client controlling better.

There are also organically based pathologies, which I don’t think MOL addresses well. For example, differences in the size and connectivity amygdala account for risk tolerance (see here and here). This can also result in lack of empathy or compunction in psychopaths. If MOL helps the daredevil be unconflicted about risking her family’s resources, or helps the psychopath to control better, is that a good thing?

The growing edge of PCT psychology (from a clinical perspective) is in understanding collective control. That’s what determines what behavior is OK and what behavior is objectionable, often resulting in the internal conflict that MOL addresses.

You may appreciate Kent McClelland’s chapter in the Handbook.

I repeat what I said before:

On the topic of how to deal with the existing scientific literature, there were a couple papers posted on Twitter that are pretty good examples of conventional research that could be useful to PCT researchers.

One is an article in Current Biology called Closed-Loop Control of Active Sensing Movements Regulates Sensory Slip. Using some rather ingenious methodology these researchers found that a little electric fish controls what they call “sensory slip” – the amount of change in the sensed location of their own electrical charge – in the face of variations in what they call the “gain of reafferent feedback” and what we call the “feedback function”. The researchers look at this as control of movement by the fish; in PCT we would look at it as control of perception, in this case the perception of what they call “sensory slip”.

PCT informed research would be most interested in getting a better handle on what this controlled perception is – what perceptual variable is being controlled when the fish are controlling “sensory slip”. I’d have to know more about what the fish were sensing in order to come up with some alternative hypotheses about what “sensory slip” is. But I suspect that one possibility is that the “slip” is a change in the lateral position of the reflected electrical signal emitted by the fish; or, perhaps, it’s a time difference between emission and arrival of the electrical signal, as in the bat. Anyway, the challenge for the PCT researcher would be to design experiments that would make it possible to determine with some confidence what perceptual variable(s) this electrical fish is controlling.

The other article describing conventional research that could be useful to PCT researchers is one by Falandays et al titled “Is prediction nothing more than multi-scale pattern completion of the future?”. This paper is very relevant to research on the control of higher level perceptions because behavior that is organized around the control of such perceptions – behavior such as speech, which is discussed quite a bit in the paper – seems to involve prediction. This is because these higher level controlled variables vary over time. The idea is that in order to be able to control for the production of, say, a grammatical sequence of words, you have to know (be able to predict) what type of word is likely to follow another; verbs are likely to follow nouns, for example.

Falandays et al argue (and produce some evidence) that such apparent cases of prediction could actually involve the production of temporal patterns. This concept is consistent with the PCT concept of control, where higher level perceptual variables, even those defined over fairly long periods of time, would be represented as the scalar output of perceptual functions – corresponding to what the authors call multi-scale patterns – that are defined over time rather than space.

Best, Rick