What about The Test?

[From From Rick Marken (951102.1100)]

Bruce Abbott (951102.1115 EST) --

EXPLAINING THORNDIKE'S OBSERVATIONS

Slow down! We don't know what we're observing yet. That is, we don't know
what variables the cat is controlling. Before we start trying to explain
Thorndike's observations, we have to determine what those observations tell
us about the purposeful behavior of the cat. It looks to me like they tell
us almost nothing about it at all -- so PCT based explanations of these
observations are little more than just-so stories.

ยทยทยท

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You seem to be rather stubbornly avoiding my question about how much space
you devote to The Test for the Controlled Variable in the new edition of your
Research Methods text. I have a feeling that you are avoiding this question
for the same reason that you are always happy to provide PCT explanations of
conventionally obtained behavioral data (like Thorndike's) without
considering the merits of that data (from a PCT standpoint). It seems to me
that you don't want to deal with the fact that conventional research methods
(like those lovingly described in your methods text) might tell you zip about
the behavior of living (purposive) systems. Based on your responses (and lack
thereof) to my disturbances, I conclude that you are controlling for the
perception of conventional behavioral research methods as useful approaches
to understanding behavior. Am I right?

Rick

[From Rick Marken (951102.1550)]

Bruce Abbott (951102.1505 EST) --

Funny, I didn't hear you telling Bill to slow down. Perhaps you can explain
why you didn't.

Because Bill Powers presented his explanations as hypotheses to be tested.
Bill knows how to test hypotheses about control and has done research aimed
at testing these hypotheses.

Me:

You seem to be rather stubbornly avoiding my question about how much space
you devote to The Test for the Controlled Variable in the new edition of your
Research Methods text.

Ye:

It's irrelevant and you know it.

Irrelevant to what?

I think nothing could possibly be more relevant to the development of
psychology as the science of purposeful behavior than the question of
how much space is devoted to a description of The Test in a psychological
methods text. The methods described in the current edition of your text tell
students nothing about purposeful behavior or how to study it; so, from a PCT
point of view, the text says nothing about how to study the behavior of
living organsisms -- to the extent that living organisms are purposeful
systems.

Methods not covered

How to determine the:
absolute threshold for a sensation
threshold for the difference between two sensations
size of an illusion
controlled perception
D' and Beta in signal detection
duration of short-term memory
serial-position curve
magnitude of the Stroop effect
optimal interstimulus interval in classical conditioning
I.Q.
simple reaction-time
flicker-fusion frequency
onset and duration of REM sleep

I could keep this up all day. Now, what do all these methods have in
common, besides the fact that they aren't mentioned in my text?

I can't believe that after a year on CSG-L you think that The Test for
controlled perceptions (variables) belongs on this list. (Well, actually, I
can believe it. I've been at this for years now. I've seen it all -- over and
over again.)

Every one of the "methods" in the list above, except for The Test, is based
on the assumption that behavior is _caused output_. Every one of these
methods, except for The Test, assumes that the relationship between an
independent variable and a dependent variable tells us something about the
organism that exists "between" these variables -- about sensory thresholds,
memory storage, attentional filters, etc. In all cases, the assumption is
that the organism is "open loop"; that response (dependent) variables depend
on input (independent) variables but that input variables do not
simultaneously depend on response variables.

Threshold and illusion measures are based on the assumption that responses
depend on the magnitude of sensory input; the threshhold is an "offset"
between stimulus and response ("yes" or "no"). SDT assume a "secularly
adjustable" criterion but measures of d' and beta assume (again) that
responses depend on the magnitude of sensory input; d' and beta determine
the offset between (noisy) sensory input and discrete outputs("yes" or "no",
again ). Same is true of serial position curves, Stroop effects,
conditioning, IQ measures (responses are assumed to be caused by the
questions and the subject's IQ is the "offset" in the S-R transfer
function) and so on.

All you have done in the list above is named a bunch of phenomena (except
controlled perceptions) that are observed in the context of studying organisms
as cause- effect systems; all these phenomena (except for controlled
variables) are studied using the methods described in your text; methods
designed for the study of open-loop, cause-effect systems; methods that
reveal nothing about purposes of purposeful systems.

You can't use the methods described in your text to test for controlled
variables. Look at The Test for controlled variables more carefully and you
will see that it is only superficially simliar to the cause-effect methods
described in your text. Yes, The Test involves manipulating an independent
variable (disturbance) and looking for it's effect on another variable
(usually the hypothesized controlled variable). But look closely and you will
see many differences; the method is aimed at finding a variable that is NOT
affected by another variable; the detailed relationship between disturbance
(IV) and response (DV) variable reveals nothing about the variable under
control or the nature of the system controlling it. The Test begins with
a hypothesis about what is controlled -- NOT about a relationship between
variables; what is of interest in The Test is LACK of EXPECTED effect of one
variable (IV) on another (DV); the process is iterative; you keep "pushing"
on a suspected controlled variable until you regularly find that none of the
variables that are expected to have an effect on the hypothesized controlled
variable actually have one.

Does this sound like anything you discuss in your text?

Rick

[From Bruce Abbott (951102.2125)]

Rick Marken (951102.1550) --

Bruce Abbott (951102.1505 EST)

Funny, I didn't hear you telling Bill to slow down. Perhaps you can explain
why you didn't.

Because Bill Powers presented his explanations as hypotheses to be tested.

That's what I was doing. Perhaps you could enlighten me. How is it that
when Bill presents his hypotheses-to-be-tested that's fine, but when I do
the same, then it becomes a big problem for you? Enquiring minds want to know.

Every one of the "methods" in the list above, except for The Test, is based
on the assumption that behavior is _caused output_. Every one of these
methods, except for The Test, assumes that the relationship between an
independent variable and a dependent variable tells us something about the
organism that exists "between" these variables -- about sensory thresholds,
memory storage, attentional filters, etc. In all cases, the assumption is
that the organism is "open loop"; that response (dependent) variables depend
on input (independent) variables but that input variables do not
simultaneously depend on response variables.

No such causal structure is necessarily assumed by any of these methods.
Furthermore, the fact that behavior is control-system action in no way
precludes causal relationships among observed variables (although the causal
relationships are likely to be indirect). Through the mechanism of the
closed-loop control system, disturbances _cause_ compensating outputs, in my
book. You seem to think that the existence of control loops has banished
causal relationships. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but this is
incorrect. Also, perceptual input functions, memory, and so on, are
components of control systems; they may or may not themselves work by means
of closed loops. To suggest that these functions cannot be studied by
ordinary experimental methods is ludicrous.

You can't use the methods described in your text to test for controlled
variables. Look at The Test for controlled variables more carefully and you
will see that it is only superficially simliar to the cause-effect methods
described in your text. Yes, The Test involves manipulating an independent
variable (disturbance) and looking for it's effect on another variable
(usually the hypothesized controlled variable).

Well, well, so I CAN use one of the methods described in my text--the
EXPERIMENTAL method. I'll manipulate one variable (the disturbance) while
attempting to hold extraneous variables constant (e.g., minimizing
slip-stick friction in the mouse, keeping the required arm motions large
enough so that twitches and such contribute but a small fraction to the
total movement of the mouse, and so on) and then observe whether my
participant is able to compensate for these disturbances by making opposing
movements of the mouse. Lookie here--I vary the disturbance, and my
participant varies the mouse position: cause-effect! I thought you said the
methods I describe are USELESS for studying control, and here is one of
those methods occupying a central and exhalted place in your panopoly of
accepted procedures!

Does this sound like anything you discuss in your text?

Yes, I talk about it quite a bit. It's called an experiment. You want me
to describe a method used to assess a particular theory of behavior, but
that is not what my book is about. My book is about research methods that
can be applied when one is asking certain general kinds of questions (like
do variables A and B tend to vary together, or what proportion of the
population believes in astrology), whether in psychology, education,
medicine, or any other area in which they would apply. It is not about
testing a specific theory of behavior. All the "methods" I said my book
does not cover are specific methods designed to answer specific research
questions; the Test qualifies as such a method, and therefore receives the
same (non)treatment.

Regards,

Bruce