Use of classical conditioning to study mental development

[From Adam Matic]

I would like an opinion about a research method involving classical conditioning.

I’ll get right to the point. If child can perceive a certain ‘stimulus’ (say a sound of a bell) then it could

be ‘conditioned’ to it. For example, if some air is puffed to the retina, the eye closes. If the puff of air

gets paired a dozen times with the sound of a bell, the child will close the eye after hearing the bell.

That’s how we can know that the child can perceive the sound of a bell.

If the hierarchy of levels is developed in leaps, then in the first period of development, the child

can not perceive more complex stimuli and it can not be conditioned to them, but in every next level

the child can be conditioned to more and more complex stimuli (sensations, transitions and so on).

The child could also discriminate between complex stimuli only if the needed level of hierarchy is developed.

So, that way, conditioning could be used to prove the existence of hierarchy in early development of a brain

(perhaps best to start with dogs or cats).

Should I work more on the idea or is it flawed in some fundamental way?

Best,

Adam

Psychology student, Croatia

[From Bill Powers (2011.02.13.0851 MST)]

I would like an opinion about a
research method involving classical conditioning.

I’ll get right to the point. If child can perceive a certain ‘stimulus’
(say a sound of a bell) then it could be ‘conditioned’ to it. For
example, if some air is puffed to the retina, the eye closes. If the puff
of air gets paired a dozen times with the sound of a bell, the child will
close the eye after hearing the bell. That’s how we can know that the
child can perceive the sound of a bell.

If the hierarchy of levels is
developed in leaps, then in the first period of development, the child
can not perceive more complex stimuli and it can not be conditioned to
them, but in every next level the child can be conditioned to more and
more complex stimuli (sensations, transitions and so on).

The child could also discriminate between complex stimuli only if the
needed level of hierarchy is developed.

So, that way, conditioning could be used to prove the existence of
hierarchy in early development of a brain (perhaps best to start with
dogs or cats).

Should I work more on the idea or is it flawed in some fundamental
way?

There are questions that need to be answered. Probably the first question
is what it is about the child that is “conditioned.” As I see
classical conditioning, it begins with a control system already
established: for example, a system that tries to keep pain at a low level
by moving the body in a way that reduces pain. If a bell is sounded
before the pain occurs, the movement eventually can result from sounding
the bell without the pain. We would say that the movement of the body was
already conditioned to occur when pain is perceived, and later, after
some experimenting, also when the bell is perceived.
As Rescorla has said, all the phenomena of classical conditioning can be
reasoned out by asking how a scientist determines causality. Given only
knowledge of the pain and the preceding circumstances, it is logical to
assume that a bell which is regularly followed by pain is somehow a cause
of the pain, and is itself to be avoided – that is, reacting to the bell
will have the same effect on the pain as reacting to the cause of the
pain. In fact, reacting to the bell will improve the pain reduction
because the subject can start withdrawing earlier, and perhaps prevent
the pain altogether.
Of course we don’t assume that logical reasoning is involved in
reorganization; it only looks that way. All we need to know is that
reacting to the bell as if it were the US will reduce the bad effects
that follow the US, so reorganization will slow or stop when that kind of
reaction begins to occur.
If you have ever had your intraocular pressure measured with an air-puff
tonometer, you will know that the reason for the eye-blink is that it
hurts. The eye-blink occurs too late to prevent the hurt, but at least it
lubricates the cornea where it’s been irritated. Don’t forget that if you
want to cause classical conditioning to take place, you have to
administer – repeatedly – a disturbance that is strong enough to cause
reorganization to begin. To condition a child, you have to hurt the
child. As an adult you may not think the process opught to hurt (the baby
is acting like a big baby), but if you have ever seen the whole-body
reaction of a baby to being pricked by a diaper pin, you will realize
that the child considers that to be extremely painful.
I think there is evidence that classical conditioning is simply the
normal process of learning to control perceptions. It seems like a
special kind of phenomenon because the CS, in the opinion of a human
observer, is “really” a neutral stimulus which logically has
nothing to do with the controlled variable being disturbed. However, it
is not neutral because it is regularly followed by an error in a
controlled variable, and until proven otherwise it is reasonable to react
as if the CS is actually a cause of the error. The organism will
reorganize so as to minimize the effect of the disturbance. Reorganizing
the perceptual input function so it reports the present of either
the US or the CS accomplishes that; by reacting more in advance of the
US, the organism reduces or even prevents the bad effects.

I draw two conclusions from all this: the first is that classical
conditioning is not the best way to test for controlled (and therefore
perceived) variables, and the second is that it’s not nice to use
classical conditioning on someone you care about.

Best,

Bill P.

···

At 05:49 PM 2/12/2011 +0100, Adam Matic wrote:

Thank you!

[From Bill Powers (2011.02.13.0851 MST)]

If you have ever had your intraocular pressure measured with an air-puff
tonometer, you will know that the reason for the eye-blink is that it
hurts. The eye-blink occurs too late to prevent the hurt, but at least it
lubricates the cornea where it’s been irritated. Don’t forget that if you
want to cause classical conditioning to take place, you have to
administer – repeatedly – a disturbance that is strong enough to cause
reorganization to begin. To condition a child, you have to hurt the
child. As an adult you may not think the process opught to hurt (the baby
is acting like a big baby), but if you have ever seen the whole-body
reaction of a baby to being pricked by a diaper pin, you will realize
that the child considers that to be extremely painful.

I’m not sure I understand why the disturbance has to be painfull to cause reorganisation. Perhaps a small intesity puff of air is enough to cause blinking of the eyes (or bright light can be used). If there is a higher sistem, would it stop blinking after it ‘realizes’ no pain comes from puffs? That would prove the higer system exists.

I draw two conclusions from all this: the first is that classical
conditioning is not the best way to test for controlled (and therefore
perceived) variables, and the second is that it’s not nice to use
classical conditioning on someone you care about.

I don’t care much about cats :smiley:

···

On Sun, Feb 13, 2011 at 6:15 PM, Bill Powers powers_w@frontier.net wrote:

[From Rick Marken (2011.02.13.0920)]

Actually, it’s not “stimuli” that are perceived; perceptions are

constructions (in PCT anyway); functions of physical variables. More

complex perceptions are more complex functions of these physical

variables. So if the physical variables are x1, x2…xn, then the

simplest perceptions are like p = k*x1; more complex perceptions are

like p = k1x1+k2x2; still more complex are p = kdx1/dx2. etc. It’s

the complexity of the function of physical variables that defines

the complexity of a perception, in PCT anyway.

Thank you. I was wondering what words to use, I just used the old ones. So I guess

I could say: complex perceptions can not be formed if the neural structures in the hierarchy

are not developed.

Yes, the child must be able to perceive the CS in order to make that

part of the control action that is what I think a "conditioned

response" is. Of course, you would have to design the conditioning

situation so that you were sure it was the more complex aspect of the

stimulus that was the CS and not just the occurrence of the CS (a low

complexity perception) that was doing it. So, for example, if you

wanted to see if the child could perceive a decreasing tonal sequence

(transition) then you might play different tonal sequences at

different times but only the decreasing sequence prior to the US and

see if that becomes a CS.

My thinking went along the same lines.

I think your idea is definitely on the right track but my inclination

is to think that the use of conditioning as a method of detecting

levels of control is way too complex. I agree that you need a

non-verbal approach method for testing what kids can perceive at

different points in their development, but I think there are far less

time consuming ways to achieve this using non-verbal version of the

Test for the Controlled Variable. What you want to see is what kinds

of variables a child can perceive (and, thus, control) at different

points in their development. The trick here would be figuring out how

to give infants (with very limited output capabilities) the ability to

control certain perceptions (if they can perceive them). I think some

of Piaget’s tasks could be adapted to this goal more readily than

Pavlov’s. There is also work by the Plooijs (if Dag Forrsell is

listening in he can point you to it) that is directly relevant here. I

think your research goal (determining how perceptual – and thus

control – ability develops) is a great one. But I think classical

conditioning is probably a too cumbersome approach. My suggestion is

to look to Plooij and Piaget rather than Pavlov for inspiration. But

keep up the good work!!

Thank you! I have contacted Mr. Dag Forrsell some time ago and he has been extreemy helpful

in providing literature on PCT. I have written an e-mail to Dr. Plooij about the methods he used and

I’m waiting for his response.

Best

Adam

···

On Sun, Feb 13, 2011 at 6:20 PM, Richard Marken rsmarken@gmail.com wrote:

[From Rick Marken (2011.02.13.1125)]

Rick Marken (2011.02.13.0920)--

. But I think classical
conditioning is probably a too cumbersome approach. My suggestion is
to look to Plooij and Piaget rather than Pavlov for inspiration. But
keep up the good work!!

Thank you! I have contacted Mr. Dag Forrsell some time ago and he has been
extreemy helpful in providing literature on PCT. I have written an e-mail to
Dr. Plooij about the methods he used and I'm waiting for his response.

Thank you, Adam. As the US fades into third world status at the hands
of reactionary forces posing as the merchants of "freedom", the
development of PCT will depend on those of you in countries where
knowledge is still valued. Progress in science is not going to come
from a country where half the people don't accept the fact of
evolution, let alone the fact of the human contribution to climate
change. Keep up the good work; you're the future!

Best

Rick

···

On Sun, Feb 13, 2011 at 10:46 AM, Adam Matić <adam.matic@gmail.com> wrote:

--
Richard S. Marken PhD
rsmarken@gmail.com
www.mindreadings.com

[From Bruce Abbott (2011.02.13.1445 EST)]

Bill Powers (2011.02.13.0851 MST)

BP: If you have ever had your intraocular pressure measured with an air-puff tonometer, you will know that the reason for the eye-blink is that it hurts. The eye-blink occurs too late to prevent the hurt, but at least it lubricates the cornea where it’s been irritated. Don’t forget that if you want to cause classical conditioning to take place, you have to administer – repeatedly – a disturbance that is strong enough to cause reorganization to begin. To condition a child, you have to hurt the child. As an adult you may not think the process opught to hurt (the baby is acting like a big baby), but if you have ever seen the whole-body reaction of a baby to being pricked by a diaper pin, you will realize that the child considers that to be extremely painful.
BP: I think there is evidence that classical conditioning is simply the normal process of learning to control perceptions. It seems like a special kind of phenomenon because the CS, in the opinion of a human observer, is “really” a neutral stimulus which logically has nothing to do with the controlled variable being disturbed. However, it is not neutral because it is regularly followed by an error in a controlled variable, and until proven otherwise it is reasonable to react as if the CS is actually a cause of the error. The organism will reorganize so as to minimize the effect of the disturbance. Reorganizing the perceptual input function so it reports the present of either the US or the CS accomplishes that; by reacting more in advance of the US, the organism reduces or even prevents the bad effects.

BP: I draw two conclusions from all this: the first is that classical conditioning is not the best way to test for controlled (and therefore perceived) variables, and the second is that it’s not nice to use classical conditioning on someone you care about.

I have two points to make here in reply. First, classical conditioning is a natural process that is going to occur, when conditions are right for it, whether those conditions are arranged by someone for some purpose or not. Whether consciously or not, we produce classical conditioning in other people (and other animals). It is not possible to avoid classically conditioning “someone you care about.” Just being affectionate to that person can do it.

That brings me to the second point. Classical conditioning is not restricted to, nor even usually involves, pain or other highly aversive perceptions as “unconditional stimuli.” The classic example is Pavlov’s use of meat powder as the US when conditioning dogs to salivate to the sound of a metronome or other stimulus. The assertion that “it’s not nice to use classical conditioning on someone you care about” seems to be based on the belief that all classical conditioning involves an aversive US. If so, then the conclusion is based on a false belief.

Even when the US is aversive, there are circumstances in which it would in fact be “nice” to use classical conditioning on someone you care about. Training with a low-intensity US can teach a person to respond quickly and efficiently to attenuate or prevent the discomfort or outright pain and damage that a high-intensity US of the same type would otherwise inflict.

Bruce A.

[From Bruce Abbott (2011.02.13.1500 EST)]

Adam Matic –

I would like an opinion about a research method involving classical conditioning.

I’ll get right to the point. If child can perceive a certain ‘stimulus’ (say a sound of a bell) then it could

be ‘conditioned’ to it. For example, if some air is puffed to the retina, the eye closes. If the puff of air

gets paired a dozen times with the sound of a bell, the child will close the eye after hearing the bell.

That’s how we can know that the child can perceive the sound of a bell.

If the hierarchy of levels is developed in leaps, then in the first period of development, the child

can not perceive more complex stimuli and it can not be conditioned to them, but in every next level

the child can be conditioned to more and more complex stimuli (sensations, transitions and so on).

The child could also discriminate between complex stimuli only if the needed level of hierarchy is developed.

So, that way, conditioning could be used to prove the existence of hierarchy in early development of a brain

(perhaps best to start with dogs or cats).

Should I work more on the idea or is it flawed in some fundamental way?

BA: Classical conditioning has been used in the past to assess the sensory capacities of nonverbal infants and of nonhuman animals, so it principle this idea should work. However, you would need a well-designed procedure, when dealing with higher levels of the proposed perceptual hierarchy, to rule out the possibility that the infant is learning to react based on lower-level perceptions. For example, when presenting a sequence, you might present two stimuli in a certain order as the CS (reinforcing those CS presentations) and on other conditioning trials present the same stimuli in a different sequence without reinforcement. In other words, you would be looking for the infant’s ability to form a conditional discrimination.

Bruce A.

[From Adam Matic]

@ Richard Marken

I’m quite enthusiastic about researching from a PCT paradigm. Thanks to Mr. Forrsell, I have enough material to read and I’m constantly writing down ideas I get. Most of them are flawed, but I hope at least one in a hundred will be good and I hope I’ll make a contribution to understanding human psychology someday. Thank you for the motivating words.

@ Bruce Abbott

From what I understood from Dr. Plooij’s videos on youtube, he didn’t use tests to assess cognitive abilities in very early age - after a certain age the Test for the controled variable can be used very succesfully, but prior - something else should be used.

Pavlov used salivating reflex to dry food and had surgicaly implanted tubes to dogs’ jaws. That seems quite impractical, but I’ll try to think of something that might be usefull.

Hi Bruce,

I'm always surprised when you act in the role of "classical conditionist",
as I think that you are a superb PCT thinker. It's possible that I didn't
understand something right in your "analysis" so it's possible that I made
some false conclusions. Please consider that possibility.

Bruce A. :
�classical conditioning is a natural process that is going to occur, when
conditions are right for it, whether those conditions are arranged by
someone for some purpose or not. Whether consciously or not, we produce
classical conditioning in other peopleďż˝

Boris :
Do I understand right that :
1. classical conditioning is appearing only in special conditions
2. people can produce certain "conditions" in other people, what means that
they can control other people with suitably arranged circumstances (conditions).
3.classical conditioning is natural process and is part of natural negative
feed-back control.

I must say that I agree with Bill about both conclusions he made.

I think that we can't "produce" with classical conditioning or with any kind
of other actions "wanted state of equilibrium, stability" in other people
with suitably arranging conditions (environment) or without. I also think
that whatever action people take against other people, consequences are
mostly unpredictable, because we usually don't take into account state of
"conditioned" persons "equilibrium" (as Ashby defined it).

Whatever our manipulations are (whatever kind and gentle) we can't "produce"
any state in other organisms. People produce it, construct it whatever we
call that dynamical state in them and they are usually not like we want them
to be. I think it's just perceptual illusion that something was "produced"
in other people. We can never be sure what is really happening in organisms
ultra-stability.

I also think that we can never be sure if our attempt of conditioning is not
opposing actual person's control, so we don't know whether we are helping
person with our conditioning or not. It's always manipulation when we try to
"regardless to knowing" what "conditioned" person really wishes or what goal
is she "following", to control her state or "produce" something in her.

It seems to me, that this was what Bill wanted to say with :
"�and the second is that it's not nice to use classical conditioning on
someone you care about."

I understand it as, if you really care about somebody you will not exhibit
any kind of "blind" control on him or any kind of classical conditioning in
the sense that you are arranging situation by your taste and thinking that
you are doing something what's the best for cared person. But in the fact
you don't know what the person you want to condition is really controlling.
I think it's the same problem as with "Kid who doesn't talk".

Best,

Boris

···

On Sun, 13 Feb 2011 14:45:09 -0500, Bruce Abbott <bbabbott@FRONTIER.COM> wrote:

[From Bruce Abbott (2011.02.13.1445 EST)]

Bill Powers (2011.02.13.0851 MST)

@Boris Hartman

I think you may be going in the wrong direction. I know “classical conditioning” may not be the best way of what describing

a kind procedure I was thinking about since it has lot of different connotations, so I’ll try to be more specific.

For example, I’ve read today that fruit flies can be conditioned (using mild electro-shocks) to discriminate between two types of hydrogen-based molecules. That was a proof that they can perceive “the smell” of one and the other molecule as distinct.

That’s something very close to what I’ve had in mind.

Best,

Adam

[From Bruce Abbott (2011.02.15.1520 EST)]

Boris Hartman --

Bruce Abbott (2011.02.13.1445 EST)

Bill Powers (2011.02.13.0851 MST)

BH: Hi Bruce,

BH: I'm always surprised when you act in the role of "classical
conditionist",
as I think that you are a superb PCT thinker. It's possible that I didn't
understand something right in your "analysis" so it's possible that I made
some false conclusions. Please consider that possibility.

Bruce A. :
.classical conditioning is a natural process that is going to occur, when
conditions are right for it, whether those conditions are arranged by
someone for some purpose or not. Whether consciously or not, we produce
classical conditioning in other people.

Let me begin by noting that it is always possible that we could be dealing
with an open-loop system at some level; we should not simply assume that all
behavior closes the loop on some controlled variable. For example, when we
place food or other substances in the mouth, the salivary glands squirt
saliva into the mouth. This may be the action of a control system that is
regulating certain sensations arising in the mouth as a result of
stimulation of tactile, smell, or taste receptors by the substance, or it
may occur in stimulus-response fashion. Without appropriate testing we don't
know which may be the case. Salivation appears to serve various functions,
depending on the nature of the substance. In the case of food it may begin
the digestive process and, if the food is dry, may help to wet and lubricate
to bolus, making the food easier to swallow. In the case of sand or weak
acid, the copious, watery saliva that is secreted when those substances are
present may help to dilute the offending substance and/or help to wash it
out of the mouth. Whether salivation occurs as part of an open-loop or
closed-loop process, it is a built-in reflex that may have evolved because
it serves those purposes and thus promotes survival and reproductive
success.

Experiments have shown that puppies fed only in the dark (so that they have
never seen the food that they are eating) do not automatically salivate when
shown their normal food for the first time. It is only after they have seen
the food and then tasted it that salivation to the sight of the food
develops. Pavlov demonstrated that, in fact, practically any source of
stimulation that immediately and reliably precedes the delivery of food will
start to function in much the same way that the food does, with respect to
stimulating salivation.

from one point of view, what the dog is learning is to anticipate the food
when the stimulation occurs, and salivates in anticipation of its arrival in
the mouth. One question we can ask is whether there is any advantage to the
dog in having the saliva already flowing, as a result of such anticipation,
when the food enters the mouth. An old theory in psychology, called the
"preparatory response" analysis, posits that the anticipatory (or
"conditioned") response prepares the organism in some way for what is about
to happen, and that this preparation helps the organism to deal with that
event more effectively.

from the PCT viewpoint, we might assume that the natural reflex is mediated
by one or more control systems. In the case of the salivary reflex, there
may be systems that monitor and control the hydration of the mouth, tactile
sensations, and so on, and release saliva in varying quantities and
mixtures, depending on which controlled variables are being disturbed by the
arrival of dry food, sand, weak acid, or other substances in the mouth. Bill
Powers has proposed that perceptions that reliably predict such disturbances
might get incorporated into the relevant control systems via the
reorganization process. This assumes that the innately organized systems are
not able to completely counter the disturbances that occur when food or
other substances arrive in the mouth unanticipated, or at least cannot do so
quickly enough to be maximally effective. The resulting error in these
systems allows reorganization to occur; when reorganization brings the
predictive sensations into the input functions of the relevant innate
control systems, the sensory inputs become capable of initiating the
salivary counter-action before the substance enters the mouth, thus
increasing the effectiveness of the system in countering the effects of the
disturbance.

Boris :
Do I understand right that :
1. classical conditioning is appearing only in special conditions
2. people can produce certain "conditions" in other people, what means that
they can control other people with suitably arranged circumstances
(conditions).
3.classical conditioning is natural process and is part of natural negative
feed-back control.

1: Yes, classical conditioning occurs only when there are pre-existing
systems that respond in reflex fashion to some source of stimulation, and
when other sources of stimulation occur in a predictive relationship to
those that initiate the reflex. (I am neglecting certain details, such as
timing restrictions.) Blinking to air puffed onto the cornea of the eye and
salivating to substances placed in the mouth are two among many example
reflexes than can be classically conditioned.

2: Classical conditioning can occur even when a person is not consciously
aware of it. The circumstances that produce classical conditioning often
occur naturally, although of course one can also arrange such conditions.

It is possible to produce some specified behavior in another person by
disturbing some perception that the person is controlling and arranging the
situation so that the specified behavior is the person's only means of
countering that disturbance, so long as the person is unwilling to give up
control over that perception. Classical conditioning is a bit different. In
classical conditioning, what is being arranged is a predictive input that,
if taken advantage of, will permit the person to exert better control over
the perception already controlled by the reflex system. Conditioning, if it
results from reorganization, will occur whether the person "wants" it to
occur or not.

The idea that one person cannot "control" another person is a statement that
must be understood in context. One cannot get inside another person and
force a change in that person's reference levels. Using coercion involves
causing a very strong disturbance in one perception that cannot be countered
except by the person giving in and doing what is required of him or her.
Even then, the person may fail to conform because to give in would be to
give up controlling another, more strongly defended perception. The coercive
techniques may also cause large errors in other controlled perceptions, and
the resulting reorganization may produce changes that are unanticipated and
unwanted from the point of view of the coercer.

Even so, we can and often do change other people's behavior, without using
coercive techniques. Demonstrating a better way to control some controlled
perception is one example among many. To some, this amounts to "controlling"
another person, but in fact the supposedly controlled person remains in
control of his or her controlled perceptions and may even control them
better.

People sometimes become classically conditioned in ways that are detrimental
to themselves; for example, some develop irrational fears of certain things
or situations, fears that grow out of proportion to the actual danger
present. Therapists have used knowledge of classical conditioning procedures
and results to design therapies that have proven effective in removing these
phobias. Of course, such techniques are used with the permission and at the
behest of the person with whom they will be used. They do not involve
coercion. These techniques basically break down the association between
those objects or situations that arouse the overwhelming fear, and the
imagined consequences of not fleeing from them. Classical conditioning
techniques have also been used successfully to treat nocturnal enuresis
(bed-wetting) in children, much to the relief of the child, who usually has
been made to feel shame and embarrassment when such "accidents" occur. The
technique involves having the child wear underwear that has be sensor
attached to monitor the moistness of the garment. As soon as urination
begins, the sensor sets off an alarm that awakens the child. After this
sequence has repeated often enough, the child spontaneously awakens before
the bladder begins to empty and is able to visit the bathroom before having
an accident.

Prior to treatment, the feeling of having to urinate initially does not
awaken the child. When bladder tension rises high enough, the bladder
sphincter opens, releasing the urine. During treatment, the alarm triggers a
reflex mechanism that awakens the child. When the child fails to awaken to
the feeling of having to urinate, that feeling gets paired by the device
with the sound of the alarm. As conditioning (reorganization) develops, the
feeling of having to urinate becomes part of the input to the awakening
mechanism and awakens the child before urination takes place.

I hope I've demonstrated that (a) classical conditioning is a natural
process; (b) that it potentially can be accounted for within the PCT
framework; (c) it does not involve "controlling a person," where that term
means that one is using coercion to make the person do what one wants; and
(d) that classical conditioning techniques have applications that can help
those with certain problems to overcome those problems.

Bruce

[From Rick Marken (2011.02.15.1730)]

Bruce Abbott (2011.02.15.1520 EST)--

Let me begin by noting that it is always possible that we could be dealing
with an open-loop system at some level; we should not simply assume that all
behavior closes the loop on some controlled variable. For example, when we
place food or other substances in the mouth, the salivary glands squirt
saliva into the mouth. This may be the action of a control system that is
regulating certain sensations arising in the mouth as a result of
stimulation of tactile, smell, or taste receptors by the substance, or it
may occur in stimulus-response fashion.

I agree that we should not assume that we are always dealing with a
closed-loop system. But I think some systems can be seen to be
closed-loop just by inspection. What's not clear about these systems
(assuming that their behavior is stable and, thus, the closed loop can
be assumed to be a negative feedback system) is the variable(s) under
control. And, of course, identifying those variables is the job of the
test for controlled variables. But I think the salivary "reflex" that
you describe above is clearly closed-loop. The output (salivation), as
you say, can be caused by food in the mouth (among other things). But
under normal circumstances (a non-normal case being the Pavlov
preparation where the saliva is collected in a fistula) the saliva
also causes a change in the food itself. So there is clearly a
closed-loop of causality: food --> salivation --> food. And the causal
links exist simultaneously:characteristics of the food are causing
salivation while salivation is causing changes in the characteristics
of the food. So I would say that you have described what is clearly a
closed-loop system. The main question is what does this system
control, and you mention some very plausible hypotheses in the next
paragraph:

Salivation appears to serve various functions,
depending on the nature of the substance. In the case of food it may begin
the digestive process and, if the food is dry, may help to wet and lubricate
to bolus, making the food easier to swallow. In the case of sand or weak
acid, the copious, watery saliva that is secreted when those substances are
present may help to dilute the offending substance and/or help to wash it
out of the mouth.

These are great starting points for a test for the controlled
variable(s) in the salivary reflex.

Best

Rick

···

Experiments have shown that puppies fed only in the dark (so that they have
never seen the food that they are eating) do not automatically salivate when
shown their normal food for the first time. It is only after they have seen
the food and then tasted it that salivation to the sight of the food
develops. Pavlov demonstrated that, in fact, practically any source of
stimulation that immediately and reliably precedes the delivery of food will
start to function in much the same way that the food does, with respect to
stimulating salivation.

From one point of view, what the dog is learning is to anticipate the food
when the stimulation occurs, and salivates in anticipation of its arrival in
the mouth. One question we can ask is whether there is any advantage to the
dog in having the saliva already flowing, as a result of such anticipation,
when the food enters the mouth. An old theory in psychology, called the
"preparatory response" analysis, posits that the anticipatory (or
"conditioned") response prepares the organism in some way for what is about
to happen, and that this preparation helps the organism to deal with that
event more effectively.

From the PCT viewpoint, we might assume that the natural reflex is mediated
by one or more control systems. In the case of the salivary reflex, there
may be systems that monitor and control the hydration of the mouth, tactile
sensations, and so on, and release saliva in varying quantities and
mixtures, depending on which controlled variables are being disturbed by the
arrival of dry food, sand, weak acid, or other substances in the mouth. Bill
Powers has proposed that perceptions that reliably predict such disturbances
might get incorporated into the relevant control systems via the
reorganization process. This assumes that the innately organized systems are
not able to completely counter the disturbances that occur when food or
other substances arrive in the mouth unanticipated, or at least cannot do so
quickly enough to be maximally effective. The resulting error in these
systems allows reorganization to occur; when reorganization brings the
predictive sensations into the input functions of the relevant innate
control systems, the sensory inputs become capable of initiating the
salivary counter-action before the substance enters the mouth, thus
increasing the effectiveness of the system in countering the effects of the
disturbance.

Boris :
Do I understand right that :
1. classical conditioning is appearing only in special conditions
2. people can produce certain "conditions" in other people, what means that
they can control other people with suitably arranged circumstances
(conditions).
3.classical conditioning is natural process and is part of natural negative
feed-back control.

1: Yes, classical conditioning occurs only when there are pre-existing
systems that respond in reflex fashion to some source of stimulation, and
when other sources of stimulation occur in a predictive relationship to
those that initiate the reflex. (I am neglecting certain details, such as
timing restrictions.) Blinking to air puffed onto the cornea of the eye and
salivating to substances placed in the mouth are two among many example
reflexes than can be classically conditioned.

2: Classical conditioning can occur even when a person is not consciously
aware of it. The circumstances that produce classical conditioning often
occur naturally, although of course one can also arrange such conditions.

It is possible to produce some specified behavior in another person by
disturbing some perception that the person is controlling and arranging the
situation so that the specified behavior is the person's only means of
countering that disturbance, so long as the person is unwilling to give up
control over that perception. Classical conditioning is a bit different. In
classical conditioning, what is being arranged is a predictive input that,
if taken advantage of, will permit the person to exert better control over
the perception already controlled by the reflex system. Conditioning, if it
results from reorganization, will occur whether the person "wants" it to
occur or not.

The idea that one person cannot "control" another person is a statement that
must be understood in context. One cannot get inside another person and
force a change in that person's reference levels. Using coercion involves
causing a very strong disturbance in one perception that cannot be countered
except by the person giving in and doing what is required of him or her.
Even then, the person may fail to conform because to give in would be to
give up controlling another, more strongly defended perception. The coercive
techniques may also cause large errors in other controlled perceptions, and
the resulting reorganization may produce changes that are unanticipated and
unwanted from the point of view of the coercer.

Even so, we can and often do change other people's behavior, without using
coercive techniques. Demonstrating a better way to control some controlled
perception is one example among many. To some, this amounts to "controlling"
another person, but in fact the supposedly controlled person remains in
control of his or her controlled perceptions and may even control them
better.

People sometimes become classically conditioned in ways that are detrimental
to themselves; for example, some develop irrational fears of certain things
or situations, fears that grow out of proportion to the actual danger
present. Therapists have used knowledge of classical conditioning procedures
and results to design therapies that have proven effective in removing these
phobias. Of course, such techniques are used with the permission and at the
behest of the person with whom they will be used. They do not involve
coercion. These techniques basically break down the association between
those objects or situations that arouse the overwhelming fear, and the
imagined consequences of not fleeing from them. Classical conditioning
techniques have also been used successfully to treat nocturnal enuresis
(bed-wetting) in children, much to the relief of the child, who usually has
been made to feel shame and embarrassment when such "accidents" occur. The
technique involves having the child wear underwear that has be sensor
attached to monitor the moistness of the garment. As soon as urination
begins, the sensor sets off an alarm that awakens the child. After this
sequence has repeated often enough, the child spontaneously awakens before
the bladder begins to empty and is able to visit the bathroom before having
an accident.

Prior to treatment, the feeling of having to urinate initially does not
awaken the child. When bladder tension rises high enough, the bladder
sphincter opens, releasing the urine. During treatment, the alarm triggers a
reflex mechanism that awakens the child. When the child fails to awaken to
the feeling of having to urinate, that feeling gets paired by the device
with the sound of the alarm. As conditioning (reorganization) develops, the
feeling of having to urinate becomes part of the input to the awakening
mechanism and awakens the child before urination takes place.

I hope I've demonstrated that (a) classical conditioning is a natural
process; (b) that it potentially can be accounted for within the PCT
framework; (c) it does not involve "controlling a person," where that term
means that one is using coercion to make the person do what one wants; and
(d) that classical conditioning techniques have applications that can help
those with certain problems to overcome those problems.

Bruce

--
Richard S. Marken PhD
rsmarken@gmail.com
www.mindreadings.com

Hi Bruce !

Although your knowledge is great, I think we solved just partly the problem
we were talking about.

Bruce :
�hope I've demonstrated that (a) classical conditioning is a natural
process; (b) that it potentially can be accounted for within the PCT
framework; (c) it does not involve "controlling a person," where that term
means that one is using coercion to make the person do what one wants; and
(d) that classical conditioning techniques have applications that can help
those with certain problems to overcome those problems.

Boris :
Do I understand right that in b) you were talking about partial processes
(some reflexes, classical conditioning) in human organisms that can be
included in PCT as the mainframe of continuous model of "maintaining general
homeostasis" in human organism with negative closed control loops ?

Bruce :
Even so, we can and often do change other people's behavior, without using
coercive techniques. Demonstrating a better way to control some controlled
perception is one example among many. To some, this amounts to "controlling"
another person, but in fact the supposedly controlled person remains in
control of his or her controlled perceptions and may even control them
better�Of course, such techniques are used with the permission and at the
behest of the person with whom they will be used.

Boris :
Do I understand right that if you want to "control a person" with classical
condition, you must have her permission ? Does this mean that "controlled
person" is one who decides whether she will accept "control" of classical
conditioning or not ?

Bruce earlier :
First, classical conditioning is a natural process that is going to occur,
when conditions are right for it, whether those conditions are arranged by
someone for some purpose or not. Whether consciously or not, we produce
classical conditioning in other people (and other animals). It is not
possible to avoid classically conditioning �someone you care about.

Boris :
I don't understand quite clear what you meant by "right conditions" or
conditions that are arranged by someone for some purpose to "produce"
classical conditioning in other people.
Does this mean that "right conditions" or other people who create "arranged
conditions", automatically "produce wanted states or behavior" in other
people. Or can we rather say that other people have to accept "influence" of
"right conditions" and "control" of other people or even they should be
asked for permission ?

I personally think that it's possible to avoid "natural control" of
classically conditioning in most cases. It's enough that people (children)
don�t' accept it or don't allow it. What can you do ? Use force on them ? Or
use classical conditioning in experiments only on infants and animals who
can't give you a permission to use classical conditioning on them. Can we
say that they are forced to "cooperate" in experiment ? Does this mean that
experimenting with classical conditioning without a permission is possible
mostly with force ?

Bruce earlier :
Classical conditioning has been used in the past to assess the sensory
capacities of nonverbal infants and of nonhuman animalsďż˝

Boris :
In general I don't understand you why should be people (children) who are
supposed to be "produced" from disturbances of circumstances (conditions),
that are "arranged by someone for some purpose" regarded as non-purposeful
being and those who arrange circumstances for somebody are purposeful beings.
Or simply : Why do you think that some people who "arrange circumstances"
for other people are purposeful and active beings and those who are supposed
to accept "control of arranged conditions" (circumstances) are not. They
are passive and from disturbances regulated beings.

Do you think that PCT is suitable theory about how human or nervous system
work or it should be supplemented with classical conditioning ?
Do you think on general that human are purposeful, goal-directed
(self-regulating beings) or they are regulated from outside conditions or by
people who suitably arrange "right conditions" for them ?

Here is a link to your Synopsis. Maybe it will help those who will read it,
to understand how organism works with perceptual control. I must admit it's
a real masterpiece.
http://users.ipfw.edu/abbott/pct/pct.html

Can you put classical conditioning into your Synopsis or in respect to it ?
Or can you put classical conditioning into PCT diagram ?

And I still think Bill was right :))

Best,
                                                                        
Boris

···

On Tue, 15 Feb 2011 15:22:31 -0500, Bruce Abbott <bbabbott@FRONTIER.COM> wrote:

[From Bruce Abbott (2011.02.15.1520 EST)]

Boris Hartman --

Bruce Abbott (2011.02.13.1445 EST)

Bill Powers (2011.02.13.0851 MST)

[From Bruce Abbott (2011.02.16.1405 EST)]

Boris Hartman --

Bruce Abbott (2011.02.15.1520 EST)

Boris:
Hi Bruce !

Although your knowledge is great, I think we solved just partly the problem
we were talking about.

BA: Hi Boris!

Bruce :

.hope I've demonstrated that (a) classical conditioning is a natural
process; (b) that it potentially can be accounted for within the PCT
framework; (c) it does not involve "controlling a person," where that term
means that one is using coercion to make the person do what one wants; and
(d) that classical conditioning techniques have applications that can help
those with certain problems to overcome those problems.

Boris :

Do I understand right that in b) you were talking about partial processes
(some reflexes, classical conditioning) in human organisms that can be
included in PCT as the mainframe of continuous model of "maintaining general
homeostasis" in human organism with negative closed control loops ?

BA: Reflexes often look like stimulus-response (open-loop) processes, but as
Bill Powers has proposed, they are usually if not always the actions of
control systems, with the stimulus acting merely as a disturbance to some
controlled variable and the response being the actions of the control system
that serve to counter the disturbance. When reflexes have been investigated,
typically the disturbance ("stimulus") is applied suddenly and the automatic
counteraction (response) follows, so what is observed appears to be a causal
sequence in which the stimulus directly triggers the response. So, tap the
patellar tendon above the kneecap of a seated person whose leg is free to
move and the lower leg swings up momentarily, or place meat powder in a
dog's mouth and saliva squirts from the dog's salivary ducts. Puff air onto
the cornea of the eye, and the eyelid blinks.

In the three cases just mentioned, the continuous nature of the control
process is not obvious, because a relatively large disturbance has been
applied suddenly to the controlled variable, or because the system acts in
an all-or-none fashion depending on whether a threshold level of disturbance
has been crossed. In other cases the continuous nature of the control
process is more apparent. For example, shining a light into the eye produces
a contraction of the pupil in apparently stimulus-response fashion, but
gradually increasing or decreasing the light intensity reveals that the
pupil diameter changes continuously with the level of illumination.

When disturbances occur suddenly, the affected control system cannot respond
rapidly enough to prevent the disturbance from having a large effect on the
controlled variable. If some perceptible event regularly precedes the
disturbance, however, the individual can learn to take preventive action
before the disturbance has a chance to act. Such preventive actions may
occur voluntarily, under the conscious control of the individual (as when a
person ducks to avoid being struck by a ball), or involuntarily. Classical
conditioning is the name given to a process that creates involuntary
anticipatory actions -- actions that occur without the person willing them
to happen. Salivating when the dinner bell rings is an example of an
involuntary anticipatory action.

from the PCT perspective, classical conditioning involves reorganization of
the control system in which disturbances to the controlled variable are
regularly preceded by some perceivable event. Reorganization changes the
system such that the occurrence of this event initiates actions that begin
the process of countering the disturbance in advance of the actual
disturbance. Thus, saliva builds up in the mouth before the food arrives,
the eyelid blinks before the puff of air strikes the cornea, and adrenalin
is released into the bloodstream before the dog attacks.

Bruce :

Even so, we can and often do change other people's behavior, without using
coercive techniques. Demonstrating a better way to control some controlled
perception is one example among many. To some, this amounts to "controlling"
another person, but in fact the supposedly controlled person remains in
control of his or her controlled perceptions and may even control them
better.Of course, such techniques are used with the permission and at the
behest of the person with whom they will be used.

Boris :

Do I understand right that if you want to "control a person" with classical
condition, you must have her permission ? Does this mean that "controlled
person" is one who decides whether she will accept "control" of classical
conditioning or not ?

BA: No. I classical conditioning (a.k.a. reorganization) is an automatic
process that will occur whenever controlled perceptions are disturbed
sufficiently strongly and repeatedly. The result normally is better control
over those perceptions.

I don't know what you mean by "control a person" in this context. You can
certainly arrange conditions under which reorganization occurs. You can't go
into people's brains and manipulate their reference perceptions.

One can arrange conditions under which classical conditioning will occur,
with or without a person's permission or knowledge. The person cannot decide
to accept or reject whether conditioning will take place; it's not a
voluntary matter. But that is true of all learning. We can decide whether or
not we want to learn about something and if we do, arrange suitable
conditions for learning. But learning also occurs just by being exposed to
certain things, whether we intend to learn or not.

Bruce earlier :

First, classical conditioning is a natural process that is going to occur,
when conditions are right for it, whether those conditions are arranged by
someone for some purpose or not. Whether consciously or not, we produce
classical conditioning in other people (and other animals). It is not
possible to avoid classically conditioning "someone you care about.

Boris :

I don't understand quite clear what you meant by "right conditions" or
conditions that are arranged by someone for some purpose to "produce"
classical conditioning in other people.
Does this mean that "right conditions" or other people who create "arranged
conditions", automatically "produce wanted states or behavior" in other
people. Or can we rather say that other people have to accept "influence" of
"right conditions" and "control" of other people or even they should be
asked for permission ?

BA: According to PCT, people are autonomous in the sense that they have an
established hierarchy of control systems whose reference values are set
internally and whose actions will be those that tend to counter any
disturbances to their controlled variables. Attempts to control another
person's actions are likely to serve as disturbances to some of those
controlled variables and thus will be met with counter-action.

Nevertheless, people can and do change. How? According to PCT, in the same
way that the control hierarchy developed in the first place -- through
reorganization. You are reorganizing all of the time, as available means of
control over the variables you control change, as you develop new ways of
perceiving. It happens whether you want it to or not.

Boris:

I personally think that it's possible to avoid "natural control" of
classically conditioning in most cases. It's enough that people (children)
don't' accept it or don't allow it. What can you do ? Use force on them ? Or
use classical conditioning in experiments only on infants and animals who
can't give you a permission to use classical conditioning on them. Can we
say that they are forced to "cooperate" in experiment ? Does this mean that
experimenting with classical conditioning without a permission is possible
mostly with force ?

BA: You seem to be laboring under the impression that the only way to
influence a person's behavior is by employing an overwhelming disturbance to
a person's controlled variables. There's another way. I'm talking about
arranging the conditions under which learning (reorganization) occurs. They
occur naturally or they may be arranged; in either case, organization
changes: new perceptions are brought under control, controlled perceptions
are controlled better, perhaps through different means, connections between
levels change. The person then behaves differently to some extent. It's not
a matter of coercing people, of exerting force.

When I talked about permission earlier, I was referring to the use of
therapeutic techniques to help a person overcome certain problems that are
causing that person distress. The person, seeking help, allows the therapist
to arrange conditions that the therapist believes will be conducive to
changing some aspect of the person's control systems in a way that is
expected to resolve the problem. One would seek the permission of the person
before applying such techniques. However, even without the intervention of a
therapist, people do encounter conditions that lead to reorganization, and
reorganization will then occur, whether the person wants it to or not.

Bruce earlier :

Classical conditioning has been used in the past to assess the sensory
capacities of nonverbal infants and of nonhuman animals.

Boris :

In general I don't understand you why should be people (children) who are
supposed to be "produced" from disturbances of circumstances (conditions),
that are "arranged by someone for some purpose" regarded as non-purposeful
being and those who arrange circumstances for somebody are purposeful
beings.
Or simply : Why do you think that some people who "arrange circumstances"
for other people are purposeful and active beings and those who are supposed
to accept "control of arranged conditions" (circumstances) are not. They
are passive and from disturbances regulated beings.

If you think about what I've said above, I believe that you will understand
that I'm not treating children or any other people as non-purposeful beings.
Even purposeful beings are changed by their experiences, and in PCT,
reorganization is one way in which such changes occur.

Do you think that PCT is suitable theory about how human or nervous system
work or it should be supplemented with classical conditioning ?
Do you think on general that human are purposeful, goal-directed
(self-regulating beings) or they are regulated from outside conditions or by
people who suitably arrange "right conditions" for them ?

I believe that classical conditioning is a learning phenomenon that can be
explained within the PCT framework, although exactly how remains an area for
future research. I do believe that humans (and other animals, by the way)
are autonomous, purposeful, goal-directed beings, but that does not mean
that they operate entirely outside the influence of external conditions.
According to PCT, those external conditions determine what perceptions must
be controlled, within what limits, and by what means, if the individual is
to keep intrinsic variables within survivable limits. It is then up to the
process of reorganization to produce the mechanisms that will meet these
environmentally-imposed requirements. The environment does not "make" us do
things, in S-R fashion. Our experiences with the environment do, however,
influence what perceptions we develop, which of those perceptions we develop
control over, and what actions we carry out to control those perceptions. By
arranging certain conditions, a person can influence the course of
reorganization in another person. If that were not the case, there would be
no point to the Method of Levels.

Here is a link to your Synopsis. Maybe it will help those who will read it,
to understand how organism works with perceptual control. I must admit it's
a real masterpiece.
http://users.ipfw.edu/abbott/pct/pct.html

Can you put classical conditioning into your Synopsis or in respect to it ?
Or can you put classical conditioning into PCT diagram ?

Please understand that PCT as presently developed offers only a general
framework, which undoubtedly will have to be modified as new information
becomes available. We can write a computer program that conforms to this
framework in order to model specific phenomena, but each model makes
specific assumptions about such things as which perceptions are being
controlled, how many levels of control are involved, how control systems at
different levels connect, and many other things. Without detailed knowledge
of the actual anatomy and physiology of the system being modeled, or absent
tests that establish which variables are actually controlled, these are just
educated guesses, and the only criterion by which we have to judge the
resulting simulation is how well it duplicates the observed behavior. It is
possible that another model, organized differently, might do as well and
conform more closely to the arrangement of parts in the real system.

This being the case, it should come as no surprise that there may be several
ways to model classical conditioning within the PCT framework. Bill has
proposed one model, but it remains to be seen whether it will prove to be
adequate to account for the many known phenomena involving classical
conditioning. What we desperately need are researchers who have the
expertise and facilities to necessary to develop, test, and refine these
proposals, if PCT is to progress much beyond its current state.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (2011.02.17.1648 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (2011.02.16.1405 EST) --

(to Boris Hartman)

BA: I don't know what you mean by "control a person" in this context. You can
certainly arrange conditions under which reorganization occurs. You can't go
into people's brains and manipulate their reference perceptions.

One can arrange conditions under which classical conditioning will occur,
with or without a person's permission or knowledge. The person cannot decide
to accept or reject whether conditioning will take place; it's not a
voluntary matter. But that is true of all learning. We can decide whether or
not we want to learn about something and if we do, arrange suitable
conditions for learning. But learning also occurs just by being exposed to
certain things, whether we intend to learn or not.

This falls strangely on my ear. It's not just you, but I've noticed throughout behaviorism a sort of triumphant reaction to any apparent evidence that human beings aren't in control of what happens to them. It's as if there is some underlying point to be made, some message to those who are so deluded as to think that they themselves are more than just natural consequences of physical processes -- that they have free will, or the ability to spontaneously initiate actions, or consciousness and other spooky things. Tired old arguments about tired old subjects, but still gnawing, apparently, at some problem.

It seems to me that learning is a very difficult achievement that requires a lot of organization to accomplish; without this organization, evolved over a few billion years, exposure to "certain things" would have no more systematic effect on an organism than it would have on a rock or a bowl of jello. Nothing happens just because of "exposure" to something. Saying that it does seems to me like a way to minimize the need to understand the inner mechanisms that organisms have developed over history for controlling the world around them and inside them.

It's like Skinner's saying (along with Watson and many others) that everything we need to know about predicting and controlling behavior can be discovered without ever trying to guess what is happening inside organisms. Since nobody in Skinner's corner of science had any useful knowledge of how organisms are able to do what they do, it was natural, if rather disingenuous, to add, "... but that knowledge isn't necessary anyway."

It is necessary. Without understanding of what goes on inside, one is very likely to reach ridiculously wrong conclusions, or interpret relationships in exactly the wrong direction, as in the idea that behavior is controlled by its consequences. If you know nothing about mechanisms, you have no way of knowing whether an explanation makes sense or is simply a wild guess that takes no account of what is likely or possible.

You and I are engaged in the development of working models formed in part from our knowledge of neurology and physiology, as well as engineering principles that have been thoroughly tested. We are building models of the mechanisms of behavior, and of experience. They are surely rudimentary models, but they are miles ahead of anything that has gone before them. And they ask "how does it work?", not just "What seems, from outside the system, to be happening?" I think behaviorism abdicated from the responsibilities of science by refusing to ask about mechanisms, and that trying to turn this defect into a virtue was simply a version of "sour grapes."

Learning doesn't happen "whether we intend to or not." That's an appeal to consciousness and is irrelevant to the question of whether the organism or the environment determines whether something is to be learned, and which one carries out the active process of learning. In our models of reorganization, we have proposed what seems to be a workable mechanism for learning how to act when errors occur so as the minimize errors in the future -- and it is the organism, not the environment, that determines what is and is not an error. The part of the system harboring consciousness (wherever that may be) may not comprehend all the details, but it is the organism where consciousness resides that is in charge of learning, and learning is for the benefit of that organism and its occupant.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Abbott (2011.02.17.2250 EST)]

Bill Powers (2011.02.17.1648 MST) --

BA: Bruce Abbott (2011.02.16.1405 EST)

(to Boris Hartman)

BA: I don't know what you mean by "control a person" in this context. You

can

certainly arrange conditions under which reorganization occurs. You can't

go

into people's brains and manipulate their reference perceptions.

One can arrange conditions under which classical conditioning will occur,
with or without a person's permission or knowledge. The person cannot

decide

to accept or reject whether conditioning will take place; it's not a
voluntary matter. But that is true of all learning. We can decide whether

or

not we want to learn about something and if we do, arrange suitable
conditions for learning. But learning also occurs just by being exposed to
certain things, whether we intend to learn or not.

BP: This falls strangely on my ear. It's not just you, but I've noticed
throughout behaviorism a sort of triumphant reaction to any apparent
evidence that human beings aren't in control of what happens to them.
It's as if there is some underlying point to be made, some message to
those who are so deluded as to think that they themselves are more
than just natural consequences of physical processes -- that they
have free will, or the ability to spontaneously initiate actions, or
consciousness and other spooky things. Tired old arguments about
tired old subjects, but still gnawing, apparently, at some problem.

I don't remember feeling any "triumphant reaction" to evidence that human
beings aren't in control of what happens to them. The plain fact is that
human beings aren't in control of some things that happen to them, but that
does not imply that human beings are S-R machines.

Certain environments will force a change in organization somewhere in the
hierarchy of control systems. For example, if the old means of control are
unavailable, one must find new ones or give up control over that perception.
We are who we are, to a great extent, because of what happened to us when we
interacted with parents, the kids on the block, our classmates, teachers,
and many others. We learned to trust or suspect, to love or hate, to feel
confident in our abilities or unsure of ourselves. We learned to control
many perceptions, although not always as well as we would like. We have
reorganized, but the resulting structures do not always function as well as
they might if they had become organized differently. I cannot see how you
can deny the force of our experiences on our development.

BP: It seems to me that learning is a very difficult achievement that
requires a lot of organization to accomplish; without this
organization, evolved over a few billion years, exposure to "certain
things" would have no more systematic effect on an organism than it
would have on a rock or a bowl of jello. Nothing happens just because
of "exposure" to something. Saying that it does seems to me like a
way to minimize the need to understand the inner mechanisms that
organisms have developed over history for controlling the world
around them and inside them.

I agree. Does that surprise you? If predictable changes in behavior occur
under certain well-defined conditions, one has demonstrated that such
conditions are sufficient to bring about those changes. Pavlov's dogs always
began to salivate to the sound of that metronome after that sound had been
followed by the delivery of meat powder into the dog's mouth. Whether such
an arrangement of the dog's environment brings about such changes in a
normal animal is not a matter for debate; the question to be addressed is
how: what is the mechanism?

BP: It's like Skinner's saying (along with Watson and many others) that
everything we need to know about predicting and controlling behavior
can be discovered without ever trying to guess what is happening
inside organisms. Since nobody in Skinner's corner of science had any
useful knowledge of how organisms are able to do what they do, it was
natural, if rather disingenuous, to add, "... but that knowledge
isn't necessary anyway."

Well, I don't care if you go on about Skinner and Watson in this way. Just
be clear that I'm not saying what they were saying.

BP: It is necessary. Without understanding of what goes on inside, one is
very likely to reach ridiculously wrong conclusions, or interpret
relationships in exactly the wrong direction, as in the idea that
behavior is controlled by its consequences. If you know nothing about
mechanisms, you have no way of knowing whether an explanation makes
sense or is simply a wild guess that takes no account of what is
likely or possible.

BP: You and I are engaged in the development of working models formed in
part from our knowledge of neurology and physiology, as well as
engineering principles that have been thoroughly tested. We are
building models of the mechanisms of behavior, and of experience.
They are surely rudimentary models, but they are miles ahead of
anything that has gone before them. And they ask "how does it work?",
not just "What seems, from outside the system, to be happening?" I
think behaviorism abdicated from the responsibilities of science by
refusing to ask about mechanisms, and that trying to turn this defect
into a virtue was simply a version of "sour grapes."

BP: Learning doesn't happen "whether we intend to or not." That's an
appeal to consciousness and is irrelevant to the question of whether
the organism or the environment determines whether something is to be
learned, and which one carries out the active process of learning. In
our models of reorganization, we have proposed what seems to be a
workable mechanism for learning how to act when errors occur so as
the minimize errors in the future -- and it is the organism, not the
environment, that determines what is and is not an error. The part of
the system harboring consciousness (wherever that may be) may not
comprehend all the details, but it is the organism where
consciousness resides that is in charge of learning, and learning is
for the benefit of that organism and its occupant.

Perhaps in this I have gotten a better grasp of your disagreement with me.
You think I'm saying that environments make people do things. That's not it
at all. Environments contain elements that can disturb controlled
perceptions, constrain the means of control over perceptions, make available
new means of control over perceptions, provide conditions under which the
individual's internal mechanisms can create new perceptions, and probably
much more. Reorganization (and perhaps other learning mechanisms) will
change the organism in ways that generally improve the individual's ability
to control effectively in the given environment. The criteria according to
which those changes are preserved in the brain are inside the individual,
not out in the environment.

Bruce A.

[From Bill Powers (2011.02.18.1455 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (2011.02.17.2250 EST)

BA: Certain environments will
force a change in organization somewhere in the

hierarchy of control systems. For example, if the old means of control
are

unavailable, one must find new ones or give up control over that
perception.

This is true in a broad sense, but not in detail. The environment by
itself can’t force any organism to do any specific thing. It has no means
for doing so. Martin Taylor says, and I agree, that all the environment
can do is give properties to any particular environmental feedback
function, and apply disturbing forces to environmental variables. It is
the organism that determines what variables it will sense, and then how
it will try to control them. Once that determination is made, a
controlled variable has been defined. Now we can see environmental
variables in terms of their effects on this new controlled variable; we
can see them as disturbances of the CV, or of the connection between the
organism’s action and consequent changes in the CV. If the organism
reorganizes, the same environment will have different effects on an
altered CV, and actions will change to oppose those different effects
even though the environment is the same. If you don’t know what the CV
is, you can’t tell what it is in the environment that matters.

BA: We are who we are, to a
great extent, because of what happened to us when we interacted with
parents, the kids on the block, our classmates, teachers,

and many others. We learned to trust or suspect, to love or hate, to
feel

confident in our abilities or unsure of ourselves.

BP: I think we have to clean out this little pocket of SR thought. You
seem to be describing personality characteristics that are the result of
what happened to us, in a cause-effect way. If that were true, all people
would be affected the same way by the same events, and they aren’t. You
are actually describing ways in which people reorganize to prevent
external events from having adverse effects on them, and to increase the
occurance of beneficial effects. At the same time these influences
are felt, we are reorganizing our behavior so as to change the influences
and their effects on us. What we retain is not the effects of those
influences, but the organization we created and then kept changing to
improve control or regain control where it was lost.

What we want from life is thus protected against such influences,
the more so as we learn better methods of control. Others do not
determine what our basic needs and desires are. Those come from our
nature as human beings which has been changing and expanding since before
we were human.

BP earlier: It seems to me that
learning is a very difficult achievement that

requires a lot of organization to accomplish; without this

organization, evolved over a few billion years, exposure to "certain

things" would have no more systematic effect on an organism than it

would have on a rock or a bowl of jello. Nothing happens just because

of “exposure” to something. Saying that it does seems to me
like a

way to minimize the need to understand the inner mechanisms that

organisms have developed over history for controlling the world

around them and inside them.

I agree. Does that surprise you? If predictable changes in behavior
occur

under certain well-defined conditions, one has demonstrated that
such

conditions are sufficient to bring about those changes.

No one hasn’t. That shows only that the conditions include some feature
that disturbs something which a particular organism is controlling.
Another organism may show similar changes under entirely different
circumstances. You are forgetting that both reorganization and natural
environments have a large random component. Repeating the same condition
will not bring about the same changes, and even if it did, normal changes
elsewhere in the environment see to it that what is needed to repeat a
desired effect is most likely to be a different behavior.

Pavlov’s dogs always

began to salivate to the sound of that metronome after that sound had
been

followed by the delivery of meat powder into the dog’s mouth. Whether
such

an arrangement of the dog’s environment brings about such changes in
a

normal animal is not a matter for debate; the question to be addressed
is

how: what is the mechanism?

The dog may salivate when there is no food powder blown into its mouth,
and it may fail to salivate when the metronome ticks. “Always,”
as you know, is an exaggeration or idealization of the truth.

In order to get what looks like predictable control, it is necessary to
overpower an animal and prevent it from satisfying its own needs on its
own schedule, and limit the environment so that one and only one action
will have the desired result - a most rare and artificial circumstance in
nature. As I think I remarked once in a Skype conversation with you, I
can cause you to pick up a spoon by first serving you soup that I know
you like at lunchtime when I know you will be hungry, then making sure
there is no handy utensil but the spoon and preventing you by some means
from bending down and slurping the soup out of the bowl or picking up the
bowl and drinking from it. You must already have nearly complete physical
control over an animal to make it do any arbitrary thing you want. That
is why you see cages in experimental laboratories.

BA: Well, I don’t care if you go
on about Skinner and Watson in this way. Just be clear that I’m not
saying what they were saying.

It would help if you were careful not to sound as though you
are.

BP earlier: Learning doesn’t
happen “whether we intend to or not.” That’s an

appeal to consciousness and is irrelevant to the question of whether

the organism or the environment determines whether something is to be

learned, and which one carries out the active process of
learning.

BA: Perhaps in this I have
gotten a better grasp of your disagreement with me.

You think I’m saying that environments make people do things. That’s not
it

at all.

BP: I know that you know this. But you haven’t yet cleaned out the attic
which is full of leftover habits of thought and speech from your previous
incarnation as a behaviorist. You said “We are who we are, to a
great extent, because of what happened to us…”. Can you see how
that might sound as if you were saying that what we are is a consequence
of what happened to us (over which we have no control), rather than
saying we are as we are as a result of learning to control the effects of
what happens to us?

BA: Environments contain
elements that can disturb controlled

perceptions, constrain the means of control over perceptions, make
available

new means of control over perceptions, provide conditions under which
the

individual’s internal mechanisms can create new perceptions, and
probably

much more. Reorganization (and perhaps other learning mechanisms)
will

change the organism in ways that generally improve the individual’s
ability

to control effectively in the given environment. The criteria according
to

which those changes are preserved in the brain are inside the
individual,

not out in the environment.

BP: As I say, I know that you know everything about this that I know. You
are saying that organisms learn to act on environments to make the
effects be what the organisms want them to be. Only when you say it the
way you did, it sounds a lot as if the environment determines what
combinations of its variables the organism will come to perceive, what
reference levels for those variables the organism will set, and what
means among all the rich assortment of possible means that exist in
natural environments will be selected to complete the loop. Not only do
the criteria by which those changes are preserved exist inside the
organism as you say, the very mechanism for making those changes in the
first place is inside the organism and acts independently of the
environment. The environment cannot change the organization of the
organism, except by destroying it.

All the environment can actively do is apply disturbing influences to
controlled (and uncontrolled) variables. Whether those influences have
any effect is determined by the organism, the effect being reduced by the
size of the loop gain. Which you know.

If it weren’t for the fact that we have all had educations and did very
well at absorbing what we were taught, the step into PCT would be simple
and easy. But I, yea even I, had to overcome my education in order to
understand what is really going on in behavior, and I found conflict with
my ideas about behavior again and again, item by item – they still show
up now and then. And everyone else I know has the same problems despite a
deep committment to PCT.

Best,

Bill P.

I think Bruce that we are minimizing our misunderstandings. I must admit
that Bill helped much. It's good to see everything from a PCT perspective
and terminology. So I hope we'll both learn something.

I'll try to add something in a quite strange way, but it seems to me a good
approach to minimize misunderstandings. So I will add some details to you
text and I hope you will not be offended. I really respect your knowledge so
I hope you'll understand my attempt as friendly. You feel free to do the same.

   BA :
   I do believe that humans (and other animals, by the way) are
   autonomous, purposeful, goal-directed beings, but that does not mean
   that they operate entirely outside the influence of external conditions.
   According to PCT, those external conditions determine what perceptions
   must be controlled, within what limits, and by what means, if the
   individual is to keep intrinsic variables within survivable limits. It
   is then up to the process of reorganization to produce the mechanisms
   that will meet these environmentally-imposed requirements.

BH :
My interpretation :
ďż˝.According to PCT, those external conditions disturb controlled perceptions
within some limits, with some means, if the individual is to keep intrinsic
variables within survivable limits. It is then up to the process of
reorganization to produce the mechanisms that will meet these goal-imposed
requirements (keeping intrinsic variables within survivable limits). Not
environmentally-imposed requirements if people are autonomous, purposeful,
goal-directed beings.
I think we should ask why should organism care so much about external
requirements if the problem is inside organism (keeping intrinsic variables
in limits). Keeping outside requirements (variables) in certain limits is
probably necessary only then when some control systems can't keep intrinsic
variables within survivable limits.

     Remember your Synopsis :
     Bruce Abbott : "To take one example, because humans are not rooted in
     the soil like plants, we must seek out and consume food and water.
     Automatic physiological mechanisms do act against disturbances to
     internal levels of water and nutrition, but these only can take the
     form of actions to reduce the rate of depletion of these quantities.
     To replenish them, we must behave. That is, we must move our muscles
     in a way that ultimately leads to locating, obtaining, and consuming
     food and water. Behavior, then, is a means by which humans (and other
     animals) defend their intrinsic variables against disturbance".

BH :
People (living organisms in general) are controlling outside requirements in
accordance with inside requirements not vica verse. You wrote that on the
ground of PCT, so I don't understand quite your viewpoint with classical
conditioning now.

BA :
Please understand that PCT as presently developed offers only a general
framework, which undoubtedly will have to be modified as new information
becomes available. We can write a computer program that conforms to this
framework in order to model specific phenomena, but each model makes
specific assumptions about such things as which perceptions are being
controlled, how many levels of control are involved, how control systems at
different levels connect, and many other things.

BH :
This is really great, Bruce. There are so many PCT projects you have on
mind, so I still don't understand why such a great PCT thinker is loosing
time on classical conditioning, which is by my opinion just a part (one
case) of control systems mechanisms.

If PCT offers a general framework, what's preventing you to write a computer
program that conforms to this framework. There's Bill, you, Rick, Martin,
Adam as a new young talented and by my opinion most perspective PCT force.
Why waste all these knowledge and talents on classical conditioning which is
only contributing to better control, if I understood you right.

I thought when you started with very promising programming of "tracking
experiment", that you'll direct Adam to continue analysis in upgrading and
improving goal directed behavior based on that experiment. For example
hierarchy of goals. And I was surprised by all that explosion of classical
conditioning on CSGnet. I really hardly understand your decision. Such a
"brain power" focused on some less important process in human nervous system
from the view of the whole control framework of the live organism.

Best,

Boris

···

On Thu, 17 Feb 2011 22:48:41 -0500, Bruce Abbott <bbabbott@FRONTIER.COM> wrote:

[From Bruce Abbott (2011.02.17.2250 EST)]

Bill Powers (2011.02.17.1648 MST) --

BA: Bruce Abbott (2011.02.16.1405 EST)

(to Boris Hartman)

[From Bruce Abbott (2011.02.20.1230 EST)]

Boris Hartman --

Bruce Abbott (2011.02.17.2250 EST)

BH: I think Bruce that we are minimizing our misunderstandings. I must admit
that Bill helped much. It's good to see everything from a PCT perspective
and terminology. So I hope we'll both learn something.

I feel the same way!

BH: I'll try to add something in a quite strange way, but it seems to me a
good
approach to minimize misunderstandings. So I will add some details to you
text and I hope you will not be offended. I really respect your knowledge so
I hope you'll understand my attempt as friendly. You feel free to do the
same.

I do appreciate your input, Boris. As you may have noticed, after nearly 10
years of being involved with PCT, I'm still learning about it.

   BA :
   I do believe that humans (and other animals, by the way) are
   autonomous, purposeful, goal-directed beings, but that does not mean
   that they operate entirely outside the influence of external conditions.
   According to PCT, those external conditions determine what perceptions
   must be controlled, within what limits, and by what means, if the
   individual is to keep intrinsic variables within survivable limits. It
   is then up to the process of reorganization to produce the mechanisms
   that will meet these environmentally-imposed requirements.

BH :
My interpretation :
..According to PCT, those external conditions disturb controlled perceptions
within some limits, with some means, if the individual is to keep intrinsic
variables within survivable limits. It is then up to the process of
reorganization to produce the mechanisms that will meet these goal-imposed
requirements (keeping intrinsic variables within survivable limits). Not
environmentally-imposed requirements if people are autonomous, purposeful,
goal-directed beings.

Evidently I have not been clear enough in writing about this, because both
you and Bill Powers seem to have misunderstood. I am not claiming that the
environment controls behavior. I am simply noting that how the nervous
system comes to be organized depends in part on the environment in which it
operates. That environment constrains the solution-space within which
controlled variables and their output mechanisms develop.

BA: I think we should ask why should organism care so much about external
requirements if the problem is inside organism (keeping intrinsic variables
in limits). Keeping outside requirements (variables) in certain limits is
probably necessary only then when some control systems can't keep intrinsic
variables within survivable limits.

     Remember your Synopsis :
     Bruce Abbott : "To take one example, because humans are not rooted in
     the soil like plants, we must seek out and consume food and water.
     Automatic physiological mechanisms do act against disturbances to
     internal levels of water and nutrition, but these only can take the
     form of actions to reduce the rate of depletion of these quantities.
     To replenish them, we must behave. That is, we must move our muscles
     in a way that ultimately leads to locating, obtaining, and consuming
     food and water. Behavior, then, is a means by which humans (and other
     animals) defend their intrinsic variables against disturbance".

BH :
People (living organisms in general) are controlling outside requirements in
accordance with inside requirements not vica verse. You wrote that on the
ground of PCT, so I don't understand quite your viewpoint with classical
conditioning now.

Sometimes we can change the environment and thereby improve our ability to
protect those intrinsic variables from significant disturbance. We human
beings grow our food and have developed methods to preserve it; consequently
we are less subject to starvation than animals that must forage for their
food on a daily basis. In other cases we cannot prevent events from
occurring that can potentially threaten those intrinsic variables. For those
cases we have adaptive processes that work both across generations
(evolution) and within an individual (learning; reorganization). Evolution
and reorganization both are presumed to work through a process of random
change and selective retention; those changes that happen to improve control
over variables essential to our well-being tend to be retained; those that
degrade it tend to be eliminated. What changes will be occur is up to
chance, but which ones will yield improved control depend on the present
structure and organization of the organism and the characteristics of the
environment in which the organism finds itself. An organism lacking a visual
system cannot reorganize to take advantage of regularities in the visual
environment; neither can an organism with a visual system that is living in
a permanently dark cave.

I doubt that anyone would find what I have just said controversial. Where I
think the controversy lies is in my suggestion that rather predictable
behavior can and does emerge from such processes. Bill Powers, if I
understand him correctly, strongly disagrees. He seems to believe that
rather predictable changes can occur only if there is a big, bad, mean
experimenter, bully, or dictator around to create severe disturbances to
variables that the individual controls and to restrict the individual's
options for correcting the resulting large errors.

But animals possessing a nervous system have evolved mechanisms that allow
them to detect regularities and alter their control systems so as to take
advantage of these regularities. In some cases the changes that take place
are reasonably predictable. I would offer pretty good odds on a bet that
every normal puppy learns to salivate at the sight of its usual food. The
fact that Pavlov can demonstrate this process in the laboratory does not
show that it occurs reliably only under very restrictive laboratory
conditions, as Bill implied in his most recent post to me Bill Powers
[(2011.02.19,.1350 MST)].

BA :
Please understand that PCT as presently developed offers only a general
framework, which undoubtedly will have to be modified as new information
becomes available. We can write a computer program that conforms to this
framework in order to model specific phenomena, but each model makes
specific assumptions about such things as which perceptions are being
controlled, how many levels of control are involved, how control systems at
different levels connect, and many other things.

BH :
This is really great, Bruce. There are so many PCT projects you have on
mind, so I still don't understand why such a great PCT thinker is loosing
time on classical conditioning, which is by my opinion just a part (one
case) of control systems mechanisms.

I have been discussing classical conditioning on CSGnet because Adam Matic
asked about it. However, there is another reason for my interest in it.
Classical conditioning is a well-established phenomenon that has been
researched for over 100 years. A considerable body of research has uncovered
numerous phenomena relating to classical conditioning for which at present
there exist several proposed explanations, but as yet no consensus view has
emerged. These explanations in general are little more than descriptions of
relationships among presumed internal variables (e.g., strength of
association). PCT offers a different kind of theory, one based on physical
mechanisms. It is supposed to explain human and animal behavior, and that
would include the types of behavior that emerge during classical
conditioning. If the present framework of PCT is sufficient to explain all
behavior (at least in principle), then one should be able to develop models
that exhibit the phenomena of classical conditioning that fit within that
framework. If not, then this will show that there is something missing in
the PCT framework and we (all those working to develop PCT) will have to
search for the missing pieces of the puzzle. That's how science progresses.

If the current PCT framework proves adequate to the task, then one will have
a model in hand to challenge existing theories of classical conditioning and
demonstrate very clearly the advantage of the PCT approach over these
others.

BH: If PCT offers a general framework, what's preventing you to write a
computer
program that conforms to this framework. There's Bill, you, Rick, Martin,
Adam as a new young talented and by my opinion most perspective PCT force.
Why waste all these knowledge and talents on classical conditioning which is
only contributing to better control, if I understood you right.

See above.

BH: I thought when you started with very promising programming of "tracking
experiment", that you'll direct Adam to continue analysis in upgrading and
improving goal directed behavior based on that experiment. For example
hierarchy of goals. And I was surprised by all that explosion of classical
conditioning on CSGnet. I really hardly understand your decision. Such a
"brain power" focused on some less important process in human nervous system
from the view of the whole control framework of the live organism.

I do not view classical conditioning as an unimportant process, but neither
is it the focus of my current efforts. I would certainly encourage anyone
who is interested and in a position to work on the development and testing
of PCT models to do so!

Bruce A.

[From Bill Powers (2011.02.20.1153 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (2011.02.17.2250
EST)

BA :

I do believe that humans (and other animals, by the way)
are

autonomous, purposeful, goal-directed beings, but that
does not mean

that they operate entirely outside the influence of external
conditions.

According to PCT, those external conditions determine
what perceptions

must be controlled, within what limits, and by what means,
if the

individual is to keep intrinsic variables within survivable
limits. It

is then up to the process of reorganization to produce the
mechanisms

that will meet these environmentally-imposed
requirements.

BP: I don’t see the issue as being the “influence of external
conditions.” There are interactions between organisms and the world
around them. You can’t treat the influences in one direction
independently of influences in the other direction; both are occurring at
the same time, and as we have seen, simple concepts of causation are not
capable of handling closed causal loops correctly.

Simple causation is an outdated idea. There really is no such thing; the
states of almost all variables in the universe are multiply determined
and multiply disturbed, as well as interacting through many different
paths. There are, in a natural environment, many quite different actions
that could be used to correct any one kind of error.

The main distinction that we have to keep always in mind is the one
between active control and passive reaction. Organisms carry out active
control guided by internal goals; non-living environments behave as
dictated by equilibrium relationships and can neither control nor seek
goals. The laws of behavior in these two domains are radically different.
The greatest mistake ever made in the sciences of life (starting long
before behaviorism or psychology) was to decide that these two domains
are the same – that a single set of laws applies equally to
both.

The only thing we can be sure of about the two domains is that the
underlying laws of one domain do not contradict the underlying laws of
the other. But this is a matter of levels of organization; at some low
level both domains boil down to physics and chemistry, and at that level
they are indeed the same. But the emergent laws at higher levels diverge
sharply.

BA: Evidently I have not been
clear enough in writing about this, because both you [Boris H.] and Bill
Powers seem to have misunderstood. I am not claiming that the environment
controls behavior. I am simply noting that how the nervous system comes
to be organized depends in part on the environment in which it operates.
That environment constrains the solution-space within which controlled
variables and their output mechanisms develop.

BP: That’s a much better way of putting it, because it gets away from the
idea that the environment actively alters something inside the organism,
in the supposed manner of a reinforcement. The current state of the
environment sets the limits on what is possible for the organism to
control and what reference levels are achievable starting from the
current status of the organism. But it in no way determines which
possibilities will be chosen as reference conditions and as means of
moving the controlled variable toward the goal. The environment at most
proposes; the organism disposes.

BA: I think we should ask why
should organism care so much about external

requirements if the problem is inside organism (keeping intrinsic
variables

in limits). Keeping outside requirements (variables) in certain limits
is

probably necessary only then when some control systems can’t keep
intrinsic

variables within survivable limits.

BP: Keeping intrinsic variables within survivable limits requires
controlling physical variables in the environment. If the internal
variables would stay in their optimum states all by themselves, no
behavior would be required until the organism decided to try changing the
internal states. But entropy always increases and dynamic processes need
power and materials that can be obtained only from the environment. And
the environment keeps generating disturbances.

BA: Evolution and reorganization
both are presumed to work through a process of random change and
selective retention; those changes that happen to improve control over
variables essential to our well-being tend to be retained; those that
degrade it tend to be eliminated. What changes will be occur is up to
chance, but which ones will yield improved control depend on the present
structure and organization of the organism and the characteristics of the
environment in which the organism finds itself. An organism lacking a
visual system cannot reorganize to take advantage of regularities in the
visual environment; neither can an organism with a visual system that is
living in a permanently dark cave.

BP: I agree. It’s a continuing simultaneous interaction.

There is one more dimension here, which is left out of the standard
concept of natural selection. The random changes don’t occur entirely by
chance. They are initiated by the organism. It is something in the
organism that decides that the time has come to commence random changes
in system parameters. The environment has no concept of “error”
in it, but organisms do. So before there can be selective retention,
there must be random variation, and random variation is initiated by the
organism mainly when there is something that the organism considers
to be wrong, in error, dangerous, painful, deleterious.

BA: I doubt that anyone would
find what I have just said controversial. Where I think the controversy
lies is in my suggestion that rather predictable

behavior can and does emerge from such processes. Bill Powers, if I

understand him correctly, strongly disagrees. He seems to believe
that

rather predictable changes can occur only if there is a big, bad,
mean

experimenter, bully, or dictator around to create severe disturbances
to

variables that the individual controls and to restrict the
individual’s

options for correcting the resulting large errors.

BP: Let’s try to narrow down what I object to. When you say that B occurs
because A occurred, it’s not the occurances I object to, it’s the
“because.” Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a logical error.
We can’t conclude that just because B happens after A, B is caused by A.
A might have caused C, D caused F and half as much G, and the difference
between F and G caused A. The more missing processes there are, the
shakier gets the appearance of causality. When I talk about the big bad
experimenter I’m calling attention to the many processes that intervene
between apparent cause and apparent effect. The sight of food can’t
possibly be the cause of salivation – too many other things have to
occur to make sure the effect follows the cause, and those factors are
inside the organism. Change any of them, and A will no longer seem to
cause B.

This is my basic objection to behaviorism. You DO have to understand what
goes on between stimulus and response; the apparent relationship between
A and B might be entirely illusory or irrelevant. It will almost
certainly be misleading, as in the case of the behavioral
illusion.

BA: In some cases the changes
that take place

are reasonably predictable. I would offer pretty good odds on a bet
that

every normal puppy learns to salivate at the sight of its usual food.
The

fact that Pavlov can demonstrate this process in the laboratory does
not

show that it occurs reliably only under very restrictive laboratory

conditions, as Bill implied in his most recent post to me Bill
Powers

[(2011.02.19,.1350 MST)].

Of course not. But I would like to see for myself, or have some very
reliable observer report to me, what happens when you get a dog to stand
in the apparatus without being tethered, right after it has eaten all it
wants to eat, while you try to make a hole in its neck to measure the
saliva dripping out. It probably would not let you put a hole in its
neck, or stand still while you measure, nor would it simply wait for
permission before snatching up the food and running down the hall with it
and out the nearest open door or window.

BA: … PCT offers a different
kind of theory, one based on physical

mechanisms. It is supposed to explain human and animal behavior, and
that

would include the types of behavior that emerge during classical

conditioning. If the present framework of PCT is sufficient to explain
all

behavior (at least in principle), then one should be able to develop
models

that exhibit the phenomena of classical conditioning that fit within
that

framework. If not, then this will show that there is something missing
in

the PCT framework and we (all those working to develop PCT) will have
to

search for the missing pieces of the puzzle. That’s how science
progresses.

BP: I agree. We should not just abandon classical conditioning, because
there is some sort of phenomenon there and we owe its discoverers the
courtesy of dealing with it. However, I think we are going to end up
abandoning the term conditioning because the phenomenon can be shown to
be simply a case of learning a control system, so there is no mysterious
special process involved.

BA: If the current PCT framework
proves adequate to the task, then one will have a model in hand to
challenge existing theories of classical conditioning and demonstrate
very clearly the advantage of the PCT approach over these

others.

Yes, that’s how I would like to see the work go, too.

Best,

Bill P.