Verplanck the Explainer/You have a strong will, Dr. Verplanck

[FROM: Dennis Delprato (950908)]

Bill Powers (950906.1125 MDT)

I'm not sure what your intent is regarding the Verplank article.

Especially, to pass on to CSG-L an item that gets at the heart of PCT.
Secondly, to see a little commentary on the issue from experts.

looks to me like the same old story of trying to do away with intention
and purpose by manipulating the way we talk about them. The main ploy
here seems to be to turn an intention into a prediction....

The fact is that reference signals specify states of perceptions, and
hence of the world, which may not exist but which are quickly and
reliably brought into existence by our _variable_ actions. A reference
signal is no more a prediction than a circuit diagram....

Another thing that Verplank seems not to grasp is that an intention or a
goal does not necessarily or even mostly refer to "future events." A
driver steering a car intends to keep the car on the road, not some time
in the future but _right now_. If you ask the little Dutch boy why he is
holding his thumb in the dike, he will say "To keep the water from
leaking out." He's telling what his intention is _right now_. In neither
case is any "event" involved; what's intended is the continuing present
state of a variable.

It seems that all of the above deals with one central issue: intention/
goal/will is not (according to PCT) future-oriented or feedforward. No
doubt Verplanck's views depart from PCT on this.
You are saying that the future is now, now, now and physical and NOT
cognitive in the sense of an expectation or the like. Blast it, this
should be something behavior analysts, who aspire to "hard-headed"
science gobble up. PCT shows how purpose as "future-oriented"
requires mystical assumptions, e.g, action-at-a-distance.

Dennis, I will be fascinated to hear the plan that you mutter over and
over as you stimulate yourself to execute the behaviors that show "how
Verplanck's comments are closer to PCT than to orthodox selectionist
operant theory."

I believe I was taken in by (1) that Verplanck would even bring
up will and (2) his statement in describing the spreading toes
self-experiment: "You wanted to do it, and you did it." This I
translated, "A higher-order system set a particular reference
level and the variable was controlled." I was impressed how
"You wanted to do it, and you did it" is totally unacceptable
to operant theory and fits in with PCT. But upon re-reading
Verplanck's comments about the experiment, it seems unlikley
that he has any idea of behavior as control of input.

Rick Marken (950906.2200) -- goes from will to:

Well, this seems like a nice way to seque into a brief discussion of the
difference between coercion and control.

This was a pleasant unintended byproduct of the Verplanck FORWARD.

Both coercion and control involve restraint; and, indeed, in both cases
a variable is restrained in the sense that it is kept in an intended state
despite disturbances that would tend to move it from this state. What
differentiates coercion from control is _will_.

In coercion, a variable is directed towards an intended state by
nullifying the will of another individual; an individual who is also
trying to direct the variable toward an intended state that is
different than te one intended by the individual who is doing the
coercing. With control, on the other hand, it is not necessary to
nullify the will of another individual if there is no one, other than
the person doing the controlling, who wills that the controlled variable
be in another state.

So coercion is just a kind of control -- it is an attempt to control a
variable that is also controlled by another controller. This kind of
control is called conflict; coercion is an attempt to win a conflict by
producing efforts that overwhelm the efforts produced by another

Coercion is the kind of control that gives "control" a bad name.
Coercion is the rarest, least successful and, unfortunately, best know
form of control.

I shake my head "yes," but ask if PCT _does_ take coercion to be
a "type of control." Coercion seems to refer to a type of
interaction between control systems (be they inter- or intra-
personal) that is characterized by systems attempting to control
the same perceptual quantities but with respect to _different_
reference levels. Control systems control (input); coercion
involves multiple controlling systems under particular conditions.
Right now I am thinking that to speak of "coercive control" (as
I have, e.g.) may be partially understandable to conventional
input-output theorists (as coercive stimulus-->forced response),
but that this is misleading for the PCT theorist because
stimulus-->response does not describe what's happening. There
is fundamentally one class of control. Coercion may not be a
class of control just as cooperation is not a class of control.
Cooperation refers to interactions between control systems
under conditions that are different from those we describe as

Dennis Delprato