DG: Thanks for your answers. How would you apply PCT to answer the question of the behavior of people who entered the Capital on January 6?
RM: Demonic possession?
DG:I suppose that different people had different reasons.
DG: Interviewing some people and asking them for the the desired results would be needed. What would success look like for each person which would have made their behavior stop?
RM: I don’t think this kind of naturalistic experiment is particularly useful for doing the basic research needed to provide an evidentiary basis for Bill’s PCT model. I sketched out (in the last chapter of the book) what I think a basic research program in PCT might look like, drawing heavily on the suggestions Bill has made I various places. I think there are ways to use naturalistic observation in PCT-based research – mainly as a source of hypotheses for basic research – but I think “one off” situations like the January 6 insurrection should just be analyzed in retrospect using an understanding of the participants as input controllers.
RM: So just based on observation of their behavior it is clear that a large number were controlling for getting into the capital building; this is evident from that fact that they did what they could to get part the guards. It’s also clear that once inside some wanted to get to specific locations as evidenced by the fact that one heroic guard who supposedly was running to protect the Senate chamber was followed by a crowd of insurrectionists. And the higher level goal for some was likely to stop the vote certification; for others it might have been simply to follow orders, etc.
DG: Some Questions to ask people about January 6
1. Would you have gone to Washington DC if Donald Trump had won the election?
2. Would you have gone to Washington DC if Donald Trump had said that it was a fair election?
3. Would you enter the Capital if the police told you not to enter?
- Would you have done what you did on January 6 if the election was redone?
DG: What questions would you ask?
RM: Actually, I wouldn’t have asked any. I would do what I would do with any misbehaving child; I’d ignore them, which is what President Biden is doing. I don’t care what they say about why they did what they did; they might not know themselves. I just want them to stop doing it and never do it again.
RM: In the book launch I used the January 6 event – actually, Trump’s behavior at that event – to show that you can’t understand what people are doing by just looking at their behavior. I used it as an example to make that point dramatically. But that might have been a mistake because some people seem to have taken it as me giving an example of how to do PCT-informed research. It’s not.
RM: I said there was evidence that Trump was, indeed, controlling for the insurrection because he did nothing to try to stop it; the behavior of the crowd was not a disturbance to the variable being controlled so the controlled variable was likely seeing the crowd overthrow the government. But in actual PCT-informed research testing for the controlled variable is not a one-shot affair. PCT theory can be used to explain, post hoc, what Trump was very likely to be controlling on Jan 6 (insurrection) but the fact that he made no effort to stop the insurrection is not evidence that he was, in fact, controlling for insurrection and not something similar; what that might be I have no idea.