What psychologists study; Misc

[From Bill Powers (960613.1830 MDT)]

Jeff Vancouver 960613.10:40 EST --

     I should note that the major theme of our paper is exactly in
     opposition to this fourth alternative - that in reality much of the
     work in psychology is about the same basic thing - control. We
     reduce motivation, decision making, personality, scripted behavior,
     etc. to the control of perceptions as aligned to goals.

Of course I agree with you that what psychologists are studying -- and
always have been studying -- is control. This is because I think that
all behavior produced by organisms is part of some control process or
other, so there is really nothing else to study.

     We believe that the "rather limited role" [of control theory] stems
     largely from not realizing that others in the field are talking
     about the same basic thing.

The problem is that others in the field are talking about the same
thing, but don't know it. They are using cause-effect explanations for
the control processes they are studying, and are not using control
theory. This is primarily because they don't know control theory -- that
is, they don't understand how to analyze closed-loop systems.

When most psychologists study motivations, they study motivations to ACT
in a particular way, rather than motivations to achieve a particular
perceptual result. When they talk about decision making, they refer to
decisions to ACT rather than decisions to achieve a particular perceived
result. When they talk about goals, they refer to some objective end-
state of the environment, rather than an end-state of a perception
defined by an internal reference standard. The general orientation is to
accept the environment as objectively real, and to refer all results to
it. Behavior is generally spoken of as the output of an organism, what
it can be seen to do to or in the objective environment.

Now you can say that these psychologists are really studying control,
and I agree, but without control theory to help them understand the
basic relationships, the mental models they use in their understanding
are of the wrong kind; they lead to methodologies inappropriate to the
study of control, and to explanations that put causes of behavior into
the environment.

I'm all in favor of your attempts at reconciliation, but true
reconciliation requires that some fundamental changes be made in the way
psychologists understand their own observations.

···

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Jeff Vancouver 960613.14:10 --

     I am sending via snail mail my simulation and papers to Rick and
     Bill P. ...

Good, I look forward to getting them. I've been through the source code
you sent, and more or less understand it (although Visual Basic seems to
rely on a lot of processes that aren't spelled out in the code!). One
preliminary comment: your reorganizing system has some capacities that I
think have to be learned -- for example, it seems able to perceive the
environment independently of the systems it is reorganizing. I rather
suspect that you're simply designing a search algorithm, the sort of
thing that can be learned, but that is not itself a process of
reorganization. But I'll be able to say more after I see the program
running.
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Fred Nickols (960613.1500 EDT) --

Bruce Gregory said

3. The good news: You can change your own pictures.

and you said
     Again, I agree, but I suspect few people other than PCTers would be
     quick to agree. It suggests, you see, such a terrible degree of
     responsibility for one's self and, in my experience, far too many
     people are loath to accept that responsibility.

Yep. Behaviorism is the ultimate theory for those who wish not to take
any responsibility for their own behavior.
------------------
     New Subject: Jay Forrester

     I happened to attend a portion of the systems thinking conference
     held in Boston this week and mentioned the control systems group to
     Jay Forrester, the generally acknowledged founder of the systems
     dynamic movement. He asked for and I gave him the information
     necessary to subscribe. He might be joining the list.

I had no idea that Jay Forrester was still alive and active! He would be
a most welcome participant in this conversation. Of course I do know
George Richardson of the system dynamic movement.
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Erling Jorgensen (960613.1420) --

Nice find about the ethological observations of rats. I'm sure Bruce
Abbott will look it up immediately. I don't suppose they mentioned that
many of the categories of behavior actually overlap with the seizing and
eating of the food. In other words, it would be very difficult, for many
of these patterns, to support the notion that the reinforcer comes after
the behavior it is supposedly reinforcing.
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Jeff Vancouver 960613.16:30 EST --

Bruce G said

>3. The good news: You can change your own pictures.

and you said

     This is more problematic. It implies we have VOLITIONAL control of
     our pictures. I do not thing PCT makes that claim. It seems more
     reminscint of Sartre.

Why not? Reference signals are set and varied by higher-level systems.
At some point we are talking about systems we normally identify as
volitional. Can't you select a goal volitionally and then create the
behavior that will make your perceptions match it? For example, I'm sure
that you can select some position for one of your hands, and then do
whatever you need to do to perceive your hand in that position. Is there
some problem with this?
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Best to all,

Bill P.

[from Jeff Vancouver 960617.17:10]

[From Bill Powers (960613.1830 MDT)]
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Jeff Vancouver 960613.16:30 EST --

Bruce G said

> >3. The good news: You can change your own pictures.

and you said

     This is more problematic. It implies we have VOLITIONAL control of
     our pictures. I do not thing PCT makes that claim. It seems more
     reminscint of Sartre.

Why not? Reference signals are set and varied by higher-level systems.
At some point we are talking about systems we normally identify as
volitional. Can't you select a goal volitionally and then create the
behavior that will make your perceptions match it? For example, I'm sure
that you can select some position for one of your hands, and then do
whatever you need to do to perceive your hand in that position. Is there
some problem with this?

By changing your own pictures I took that to mean reorganizing. You are
taking it to mean controlling. In that case, I would agree more readily
with the statement (but even controlling can be difficult).

Later

Jeff