What CSG is for

[From Rick Marken (2002.06.17.1500)]

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.17.1510 EST)--

The issue for possible debate is whether discussions like the one I
initiated with Bill should be welcomed on CSGnet or whether CSGnet should
continue to be treated only as a forum for educating the public about
PCT.

What's wrong with it being both?

If the later, then if I do any more of this at all, I will do it
privately. I can do without being characterized implicitly as the dragon
to Bill's dragon-slayer.

I am really sorry if you thought that was what I was doing. It wasn't. I didn't
think there was anything wrong with your post. I just thought Bill's post (in
reply) was particularly good.

For me, it's not about victors and vanquished,
it's about the advancement of the science.

I agree. That's what I meant when I said "This is what CSG is for". It's for the
kind of interesting dialog like the one between you and Bill. And even though I
tend to agree with Bill on this issue, let me say that I think your posts in
this series have been wonderful, too!

Best regards

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken, Ph.D.
The RAND Corporation
PO Box 2138
1700 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
Tel: 310-393-0411 x7971
Fax: 310-451-7018
E-mail: rmarken@rand.org

[From Bruce Abbott (2002.06.17.1510 EST)]

Rick Marken (2002.06.16.1030)

> Bill Powers (2002.06.16.0734 MDT)
>
> I'm proposing that they are not there -- not as signals separate from the
> experiences for which we have reference levels...

Yes! This is what CSG is for. Wonderful post!!

I considered just deleting this post without sending it, but on
reconsideration, I think it says something that needs to be said. Perhaps
we should debate the issue it raises.

I learned by experience some time ago that the purpose of CSG is not to
conduct a collegial scientific discussion of perceptual control theory,
including debate about possible shortcomings and a mutual search for
possible solutions or improvements. Rather, it is to teach PCT as Bill
Powers envisioned it thirty or more years ago and defend that static
conception against any and all changes (with the possible exception of
diddling around with the number and types of levels). In that context,
those who think they see difficulties for the theory and offer up possible
solutions for discussion, are viewed not as scientific colleagues in a
common enterprise, but as challengers who are to be vanquished by the very
eloquent Mr. Powers.

My problem is not that I may have been unsuccessful in promoting my
suggestion. When I develop some idea such as my recent proposal, I find
that presenting it on CSGnet and subjecting it to vigorous critical debate
is one of the best ways I know of for helping me to evaluate its value. If
there are problems or shortcomings with it, Bill will surely point them
out. I expect him to, and very much value his thoughtful and articulate
replies. No, my problem is with the apparent the apparent lack of any
appreciation for such efforts, as seems to be implied by your reserving
praise only for Bill's half of what is, after all, a discussion involving
two parties, both of whom are interested in advancing PCT. I have yet to
see a perfect theory, and think it would be folly to pretend that PCT is
such a theory, benefiting neither from constructive criticism nor from
modification of any kind.

The issue for possible debate is whether discussions like the one I
initiated with Bill should be welcomed on CSGnet or whether CSGnet should
continue to be treated only as a forum for educating the public about
PCT. If the later, then if I do any more of this at all, I will do it
privately. I can do without being characterized implicitly as the dragon
to Bill's dragon-slayer. For me, it's not about victors and vanquished,
it's about the advancement of the science.

Bruce A.

[From Bruce Abbott (2002.06.17.1525 EST)]

Rick Marken (2002.06.17.1500) --

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.17.1510 EST)--

> The issue for possible debate is whether discussions like the one I
> initiated with Bill should be welcomed on CSGnet or whether CSGnet should
> continue to be treated only as a forum for educating the public about
> PCT.

What's wrong with it being both?

Nothing; I didn't mean to imply that these functions are mutually
exclusive; obviously, they aren't.

> If the later, then if I do any more of this at all, I will do it
> privately. I can do without being characterized implicitly as the dragon
> to Bill's dragon-slayer.

I am really sorry if you thought that was what I was doing. It wasn't. I
didn't
think there was anything wrong with your post. I just thought Bill's post (in
reply) was particularly good.

> For me, it's not about victors and vanquished,
> it's about the advancement of the science.

I agree. That's what I meant when I said "This is what CSG is for". It's
for the
kind of interesting dialog like the one between you and Bill. And even
though I
tend to agree with Bill on this issue, let me say that I think your posts in
this series have been wonderful, too!

Thanks, Rick. It heartens me to hear you say that.

Bruce A.

[From Bill Powers (2002.06.18. 1044 MDT)]

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.17.1510 EST)--

\>I learned by experience some time ago that the purpose of CSG is not to

conduct a collegial scientific discussion of perceptual control theory,
including debate about possible shortcomings and a mutual search for
possible solutions or improvements. Rather, it is to teach PCT as Bill
Powers envisioned it thirty or more years ago and defend that static
conception against any and all changes (with the possible exception of
diddling around with the number and types of levels).

The "static conception" that I defend was specifically constructed to
remedy the shortcomings of traditional explanatory concepts in psychology
as I saw them, as well as to bring under a single scientific account many
more aspects of human behavior and experience than any one traditional
psychological theory had covered. It has taken not thirty years but more
like fifty simply to communicate to a few people what my theoretical
proposal _is_. I had thought that those years would be devoted to further
exploration and improvements on the theory, but I hadn't counted on the
fierceness of the opposition or the tenacity with which people would cling
to old ideas. Furthermore, I had not realized just how strange the concept
of working models would turn out to be in the eyes of traditional
behavioral scientists.

If I have been proposing the same model for too long, don't we also have to
consider the age of most of the concepts you've been proposing?

> ... my problem is with the apparent the apparent lack of any

appreciation for such efforts, as seems to be implied by your reserving
praise only for Bill's half of what is, after all, a discussion involving
two parties, both of whom are interested in advancing PCT. I have yet to
see a perfect theory, and think it would be folly to pretend that PCT is
such a theory, benefiting neither from constructive criticism nor from
modification of any kind.

I can't speak for anyone else on CSGnet, but I think I have taken your
arguments seriously. I don't particularly like the "cheering section"
concept, either, even though it's slanted my way. The cheering section may
help my morale sometimes, but it doesn't score any baskets.

Just for the record, even when I disagree with you I find your ability to
put together a rational argument admirable. That's why I've always wanted
you on my side.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Rick Marken (2002.06.18.1330)]

Bill Powers (2002.06.18. 1044 MDT)

It has taken not thirty years but more
like fifty simply to communicate to a few people what my theoretical
proposal _is_. I had thought that those years would be devoted to further
exploration and improvements on the theory, but I hadn't counted on the
fierceness of the opposition or the tenacity with which people would cling
to old ideas.

I've been surprised by the fact that the fierce opposition to PCT has
typically been so deceptively gentle, usually taking the form of "Oh, it's
nothing but..." Direct opposition to PCT, such as the notorious Fowler and
Turvey (1978) hatchet job, has been rare. It's also been a surprise to find
that some of the most ardent supporters of PCT are clinging the most
tenaciously to old ideas that are in direct conflict with PCT. How do you
disagree with people who keep saying "I love PCT" without sounding like,
er..., the enemy of PCT.

It's been one heck of an interesting ride.

Best regards

Rick

···

---
Richard S. Marken, Ph.D.
The RAND Corporation
PO Box 2138
1700 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
Tel: 310-393-0411 x7971
Fax: 310-451-7018
E-mail: rmarken@rand.org

[From Bruce Nevin (06.18.2002 17:11 PDT)]

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.17.1510 EST)

I considered just deleting this post without sending it, but on
reconsideration, I think it says something that needs to be said.

[...]

it's not about victors and vanquished, it's about the advancement of the science.

Excellent, excellent post, Bruce. Thanks for taking the time and care to put that into words in so balanced a way.

And thanks for your generous reply, Rick.

         /Bruce

···

At 03:18 PM 6/17/2002 -0500, Abbott_Bruce wrote:

Bruce, I learned a lot from both your and Bill's analysis. Please don't
reduce your input.
David Wolsk

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.17.1510 EST)--

> The issue for possible debate is whether discussions like the one I
> initiated with Bill should be welcomed on CSGnet or whether CSGnet

should

···

> continue to be treated only as a forum for educating the public about
> PCT.

[From Hank Folson (2002.06.19.1500)]

(Bruce Abbott (2002.06.17.1510 EST)

The issue for possible debate is whether discussions like the one I
initiated with Bill should be welcomed on CSGnet or whether CSGnet should
continue to be treated only as a forum for educating the public about
PCT.

Let's not forget that Bill's theory is quantifiable. It's all about control
systems, and control systems lend themselves to computer and physical
modeling. The ground rule you don't refer to is that if you want to add to
PCT, you do it by producing a model that controls its perceptions just like
the organism/human does. If there is to be 'debate', it would be about
whether or not the model used control systems that could or do appear in
the organism being studied. To use a debate to prove some aspect of PCT is
simply not acceptable. This theory will evolve not through the debating
skills of individuals, but through Hard Science.

Similarly, "discussion" is a preliminary phase. Nothing wrong about
discussing whether an idea is worth modeling, or novel to PCT researchers,
or how to best model it, and so on. But discussing it doesn't make it true,
and discussion is never enough to establish it as true.

...For me, it's not about victors and vanquished,

For me it's closer to "Put up or shut up." Whoever produces a valid model
of some aspect of PCT, adds to the theory and the knowledge. The closest
we'll come to victors and vanquished is when 2 or more people/groups are
working on the same aspect, and it is a matter of who completes their
research first. From what I've seen, we're a long way from having to worry
about this one. :wink:

it's about the advancement of the science.

Yes. I just hope it never degenerates to "It's about the advancement of the
scientist."

Sincerely,
Hank Folson

[From Bruce Abbott (2002.06.19.2035 EST]

[Bruce Nevin (06.18.2002 17:11 PDT) --

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.17.1510 EST)

I considered just deleting this post without sending it, but on
reconsideration, I think it says something that needs to be said.

[...]

it's not about victors and vanquished, it's about the advancement of the
science.

Excellent, excellent post, Bruce. Thanks for taking the time and care to
put that into words in so balanced a way.

And thanks for your generous reply, Rick.

Bruce, I learned a lot from both your and Bill's analysis. Please don't
reduce your input.
David Wolsk

Thanks to both of you for your kind words of encouragement.

Bruce A.

[From Bruce Abbott (2002.06.20.0840 EST)]

[From Hank Folson
(2002.06.19.1500)]

(Bruce Abbott (2002.06.17.1510 EST)

The issue for possible debate is whether discussions like the one
I

initiated with Bill should be welcomed on CSGnet or whether CSGnet
should

continue to be treated only as a forum for educating the public
about

PCT.

Let’s not forget that Bill’s theory is quantifiable. It’s all about
control

systems, and control systems lend themselves to computer and
physical

modeling. The ground rule you don’t refer to is that if you want to add
to

PCT, you do it by producing a model that controls its perceptions just
like

the organism/human does. If there is to be ‘debate’, it would be
about

whether or not the model used control systems that could or do appear
in

the organism being studied. To use a debate to prove some aspect of PCT
is

simply not acceptable. This theory will evolve not through the
debating

skills of individuals, but through Hard Science.

I agree that a crucial test of any model is to show that it reproduces
the behavior of the system it is a model of. No amount of
discussion/debate can serve as a substitute for empirical work.
Further, the physical components of the model (including functional
components and their connections) must be identified in the living
organism. Many alternative models can reproduce the observed
behavior of a system under sufficiently limited conditions. Only
one will have a structure that matches that of the real system.

But such testing requires a specific model, designed to account for a
specific bit of behavior. For the most part, HPCT does not provide
such models. Instead, it provides a general architecture that is
based on certain principles, some physiological evidence, introspection,
and informed speculation.

The most general principle is that which is expressed in the title of
Bill’s book: behavior is the control of perception. Other
principles include (but are not limited to) the hierarchical organization
of perceptual and control systems, the control of higher-order
perceptions by manipulating the references of next-lower level control
systems, the principle of parsimony (prefer the simplest adequate
explanation), and the reorganization principle, which states that the
perceptual/control hierarchy emerges through a biased random process that
seeks to minimize error in the so-called intrinsic variables.

Despite its general nature, HPCT does yield some testable implications
that do not depend on first having a specific, detailed model. For
example, it predicts that the time-constants of various control systems
will increase with their levels in the presumed hierarchy. It
predicts that one cannot simultaneously perceive one’s hand in one
position while perceiving in the imagination that it is in a different
position. It predicts that people cannot exist who have otherwise
normal sensory systems but no ability to experience pain. Some of
these are predictions that can be assessed even in the absence of a
quantitative model. There is some evidence available that bears on
some of these predictions (although one can always argue whether that
evidence is reliable) and this evidence may be used to raise questions
about HPCT as it is currently envisioned.

You assert “that if you want to add to PCT, you do it by producing a
model that controls its perceptions just like the organism/human
does.” If you applied this same standard to Bill’s development
of HPCT, B:CP would be reduced to a very thin book. Little if any
of HPCT was developed by “adding to PCT” in the way that you
propose. And if evidence exists that appears to conflict with some
of the implications of that general model, shouldn’t we at least talk
about it? We may decide that the evidence is not trustworthy enough
to merit any further consideration of it, or that it does not really
conflict with any HPCT implications, or that it is really a problem for
HPCT in its current form. Regardless, I do not believe that the
time spent discussing it would be wasted.

P.S.: I will be heading out early tomorrow morning (Friday) for a
week’s vacation in, of all places, Kansas.

Bruce A.

[From Bill Powers (2002.06.20.0804 mdt)]

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.20.0840 EST)--

>{pct} predicts that people cannot exist who have otherwise normal sensory
systems >but no ability to experience pain.

This is putting words in my mouth. There is nothing in PCT that "predicts"
anything of the sort. I have proposed that pain signals are simply sensory
signals that are higher than their reference levels. Some signals (such as
hunger signals) have reference levels that are normally zero, so that any
amount of the signal is to be avoided: thus any amount of that class of
signals is considered unpleasant. Other signals are normally varied over
non-zero levels, but even they can become unpleasant when larger or more
intense than the highest normal reference level. A signal consider pleasant
when within some normal range of magnitudes can often become unpleasant or
painful when far above the normal range; that fact (and it is a fact, not a
theory) fits perfectly into the PCT model and into no other model of which
I know.

Perhaps a person who does not feel pain lacks the sensory receptors that
normally report certain types of physiological problem, such as skin
damage. This in no way implies that the missing receptors are "pain
receptors" that produce "pain signals." In comparing two explanations for a
phenomenon, it is not legitimate to treat one of them as self-evidently
correct, as one would do by assuming that the missing signals report an
abstract condition we call pain. The control-system explanation is not
negated if certain sensory signals are missing. To say that all normal
sensory signals are present but pain signals are missing is to assert
exactly what you're trying to prove: that pain signals are not ordinary
sensory signals. If they are ordinary sensory signals, as I claim, then if
they are missing, the person does NOT have all ordinary sensory signals.
The right way to describe the situation is to say that some people lack the
sensory signals that usually report damage or other deleterious conditions.

These propositions are simply an application of PCT to the phenomena of
pain and pleasure following the basic principles of organization of the
control hierarchy and well-accepted principles of parsimony. My claim is
that the concept of specialized pleasure and pain signals, and all the
specialized apparatus that supposedly serves them (in the amygdala and
hypothalamus, for example), is superfluous, ad-hoc, and unneeded. PCT is
not the only body of theoretical speculation under scrutiny here.

>Some of these are predictions that can be assessed even in the absence of
a >quantitative model. There is some evidence available that bears on some
of these >predictions (although one can always argue whether that evidence
is reliable) and >this evidence may be used to raise questions about HPCT
as it is currently >envisioned.

That may be true, but one has to be careful about presenting the evidence;
it is also necessary to weigh the same evidence, using the same criteria,
in relation to any alternative proposal. There is, as far as I know, no
evidence at all for the alternative to PCT. Perhaps the kind of model-based
testing of PCT that might be appropriate for PCT is underdeveloped, but
alternative theoretical claims are altogether lacking in comparabler tests,
those that challenge the basic theory itself. What tests challenge the
concept that stimuli cause responses? Let's not apply a strict standard to
PCT unless we also apply it to the rival theories.

>[Folson asserts] "that if you want to add to PCT, you do it by producing
a model that >controls its perceptions just like the organism/human
does." If you applied this >same standard to Bill's development of HPCT,
B:CP would be reduced to a very thin >book.

And where would it leave any competing theory? As far as I know, no other
approach has even a sketchy working model behind it. Let's compare apples
and apples, please.

As to the meta-dioscussion going on here, wouldn't it be simpler just to
discuss the questions brought up rather than trying to wheedle the jury
into treating either side more or less favorably?

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Abbott (2002.06.20.1145 EST)]

Bill Powers (2002.06.20.0804 mdt) --

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.20.0840 EST)--

Bill, I haven't the time to provide a detailed reply to this post as I'm
getting ready for my trip. Suffice it to say that your reply appears to be
based on a complete misunderstanding (and misrepresentation) of what that
post was about. It was specifically designed to show that Folson's
criterion for "adding to PCT" is overly strict, because if it had been
enforced from the beginning, most of what you have included in B:CP would
have to have been left out, and because HPCT has testable implications that
can be evaluated even in the absence of detailed quantitative models. It
was not intended as a criticism of PCT, and it was certainly not an attempt
to hold PCT to a higher standard than competing theories.

I hope you will reread that argument with that in mind. Perhaps you will
see something different in it this time.

Best wishes,

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (2002.06.20.1223 Mdt)]

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.20.1145 EST)--

>your reply appears to be

based on a complete misunderstanding (and misrepresentation) of what that
post was about. It was specifically designed to show that Folson's
criterion for "adding to PCT" is overly strict, because if it had been
enforced from the beginning, most of what you have included in B:CP would
have to have been left out, and because HPCT has testable implications that
can be evaluated even in the absence of detailed quantitative models. It
was not intended as a criticism of PCT, and it was certainly not an attempt
to hold PCT to a higher standard than competing theories.

Ah. I thought you were implying that such standards should have been
applied. My apologies for "mis-" ing (interpret and represent) what you said.

Have a nice time standing in those flat fields (chacun a son gout). I
presume this will entail some rubbings of gravestones and perusals of
county records, etc..

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Nevin (2002.06.20 11:46 PDT)]

Perception I am controlling with this message: that we will collectively find ways to avoid unnecessarily falling into an adversarial stance on CSG-net.

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.20.1145 EST)--

I can see how Bill might easily have misconstrued your message, and I can also see your intention very clearly. Given the presumption of an adversarial tone that has been the norm here -- expectation, shared CV, standard of discourse, whatever it may be -- it might be helpful to state up front what the intended effect of one's message is.

In this case, your message might have started out with something like "I hope that when you finish reading this you will agree with me

that Folson's criterion for "adding to PCT" is overly strict.... [This is] not a criticism of PCT.

One possible idea.

         /Bruce

[From Bruce Abbott (2002.06.20.1410 EST)]

Bruce Nevin (2002.06.20 11:46 PDT) --

Perception I am controlling with this message: that we will collectively
find ways to avoid unnecessarily falling into an adversarial stance on
CSG-net.

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.20.1145 EST)--

I can see how Bill might easily have misconstrued your message, and I can
also see your intention very clearly. Given the presumption of an
adversarial tone that has been the norm here -- expectation, shared CV,
standard of discourse, whatever it may be -- it might be helpful to state
up front what the intended effect of one's message is.

Excellent idea!

Bruce A.

[From Bruce Abbott (2002.06.20.1425 EST)]

Bill Powers (2002.06.20.1223 Mdt)

Bruce Abbott (2002.06.20.1145 EST)--

>your reply appears to be

based on a complete misunderstanding (and misrepresentation) of what that
post was about. It was specifically designed to show that Folson's
criterion for "adding to PCT" is overly strict, because if it had been
enforced from the beginning, most of what you have included in B:CP would
have to have been left out, and because HPCT has testable implications that
can be evaluated even in the absence of detailed quantitative models. It
was not intended as a criticism of PCT, and it was certainly not an attempt
to hold PCT to a higher standard than competing theories.

Ah. I thought you were implying that such standards should have been
applied. My apologies for "mis-" ing (interpret and represent) what you said.

Probably my fault for not being clearer. This is not an easy medium in
which to communicate one's intentions!

Have a nice time standing in those flat fields (chacun a son gout). I
presume this will entail some rubbings of gravestones and perusals of
county records, etc..

That and meeting some very nice people (some of whom are actually
relatives), and visiting places I've never been before. Hey, it doesn't
take much to entertain me . . .

Bruce A.