USES OF PCT

From Tom Bourbon [930413.1149 CDT]

Ken Hacker (930412.1823) replied to my earlier post about modeling social
interactions in which people mutually affect environmental variables.
Before I even read Ken's reply, Bill Powers (930412.2000) posted an
elegant commentary, inspired by Ken's post. There is little I can
add to what Bill said, but I will try.
   Ken said one of the old things he saw when he read material about
using PCT to interpret social interactions was the idea that coordinated
action depends on shared reference signals. Ken, I would welcome any
citations you might provide concerning the importance of reference signals,
in the PCT sense of reference signals, in communication and in other
social interactions. I have seen many publications in which authors
spoke of the importance of shared *goals*, or *ideas*, or *standards,*
or some other construct. In virtually every case, the author meant that
people must share intentions for *actions*. In none of those cases could
one say the authors were speaking of reference signals a la PCT. In the
PCT model of a living control system, a reference signal "requests"
a specific perception; it does not specify a particular action. As
small as that difference might sound, it is the difference between a
system that can control under changing circumstances, and one that can
seem to control, but only when circumstances do not vary (ay all).
   I am open to seeing and reviewing material, from any field, in which
writers clearly discuss the role in communication of reference signals
for specific perceptions. If there are such writings, and if they predate
the now 40-year-old ideas in PCT, then it is fair to claim that PCT is
reiterating the idea. On the other hand, if the authors discuss "goals
for action," then they are discussing something entirely different. (To Bill's
list of disciplines in which people have said, "We have already said that,"
or "We alrady know that," I would add management, criminal justice, political
science, advertising ... the list is long.)
   Ken, I will send reprints of my (admittedly modest) attempts at modeling
social interactions with PCT.
   Until later,
   Tom Bourbon

(erratum: at all)

From Ken Hacker [930413] --

Tom, I think you are right when you say that I am noting that the older
notions were cast in different language and terminology of reference
signals was not used. As Bohrs stated, "We are suspended in language."
My main point was that scholars in different fields may be talking about
the same things or even bits of the same things and using different
words to describe and explain them. I believe that PCT digs deep into
some areas of control that no one else touches -- no doubt, but I also
perceive that the set of premises about behaviors being inner directed via
controls of perceptions has roots in Aristotle's teleology. Ken

From Tom Bourbon [930415.1345 CDT] in reply to Ken HAcker (930413).

Ken, I suspected that the material you had read contained discussions
of plans, programs, goals and the like as sources of the inner direction
of *behavior*, rather than discussions of reference signals that specify
perceptions. Among the relative few who have gotten the idea that intentions
are about perceptions, not behaviors, were Aristotle (whose work does not
always deserve the common characterization as "teleological"), William
James -- and Bill Powers. I discussed this theme briefly in the Foreword
to Bill's second volume of Living Control Systems.

I agree with you on the antiquity of the idea of inner direction, but very
few have gotten the important point concerning exactly what it is that is
directed.

Until later,
  Tom Bourbon