What's wrong with schizophrenics? (was: Control system description)

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.02.0400 MDT)]

There's another end to this thread which might prove equally interesting. I can sum it up by asking "What's wrong with a person who has schizophrenia?" That's a strange question because what most people would say is wrong is that the person has schizophrenia. What I'm asking is specifically what it is, in PCT terms, that a schizophrenic person wants to control and has difficulty controlling.

This question can be applied to all categories of disorders or mental illnesses. What does a person with ADHD or ADD have trouble controlling? I don't mean what would other people prefer such a person to control better, but what does the person say the difficulty is? Presumably, when we see a person with a disorder, that person is not functioning as well as a normal person. Again, I don't mean that the person fails to function as others want him or her to, which is what most diagnoses are about. I mean that the symptoms we see arise because the person is trying and failing to control something. What is it?

I don't know if this is a new approach, but it's the approach appropriate to PCT. Does anyone ever ask schizophrenics or ADDics what they're trying to do? What, in the opinion of our clinicians who may have dealt with these disorders, might be some answers worth exploring MOL-wise? I'm cc-ing this to Warren Mansell, who has special interests in this area, and Tim Carey, who will most probably have some opinions on this subject.

All this is part of the main thread which is about learning to speak of PCT to others in terms other than our usual in-house technical terms. The present sub-thread concerns how we could translate the other way: from normal-science-speak to PCT-speak.

Best,

Bill P.

P.S. Someone learning PCT from Shelley Roy (of IAACT) came up with a very useful example which belongs in this thread. The student described a driver suddenly having to apply the brakes. The driver (clearly a mother) reaches out with one arm to keep the passenger from pitching forward into the dashboard. S-R theory says that it was the sight of the passenger pitching forward that resulted in the driver's arm shooting out and pressing back against the passenger. PCT, of course, would say that the purpose was to prevent injury to the passenger. This suggests another sub-thread consisting of examples in which the PCT explanation makes sense while the behavioristic and cogitive explanations clearly don't.

[From Fred Nickols (2009.05.02.1633 PDT)]

I don't know what's wrong with a person who has schizophrenia - in PCT terms
or otherwise - but I can tell you a fascinating little story about a
psychologist who discovered something unusual when helping a supposedly
paranoid person. The young woman was institutionalized and had been for
quite some time. In most respects, she appeared normal and would have been
released but she kept insisting that the hospital was intercepting the mail
sent her by her parents. Her parents were concerned, too. They told the
hospital officials that they weren't sending her any mail. The psychologist
in question (or perhaps he was a psychiatrist - I forget which) worked with
the girl for quite some time but she would not let go of her belief that the
institution was intercepting the mail from her parents. In the course of
talking with the parents during one of their infrequent visits, he again
confirmed that they were not sending her any mail. Then, as he related, it
occurred to him to ask the parents a slightly different question. "Do you
tell your daughter that you write to her?" he asked. They looked at each
other and then allowed as how they told her they wrote even though they
didn't because they didn't want her to think they didn't care enough to
write. The therapist's outlook on paranoia changed suddenly and drastically
and he went on to have great success with supposedly intractable cases of
paranoia. What he began looking for is not what was so strange about the
patients' beliefs but the evidence they were using to support and sustain
those beliefs. What he found, in case after case, was eminently reasonable
logic underlying paranoid behavior. Perhaps there's something similar at
work in cases of schizophrenia. My mother was diagnosed years ago as a
paranoid-schizophrenic owing to some outlandish claims she makes about
happenings in her life. Unlike everyone else, I've always thought her
outlandish stories were simply a way of getting sustained attention - and
I've told her so. When I do, she giggles.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
Managing Partner
Distance Consulting LLC
nickols@att.net | www.nickols.us

"Assistance at a Distance"SM

···

-----Original Message-----
From: Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet)
[mailto:CSGNET@LISTSERV.ILLINOIS.EDU] On Behalf Of Bill Powers
Sent: Saturday, May 02, 2009 3:36 AM
To: CSGNET@LISTSERV.ILLINOIS.EDU
Subject: What's wrong with schizophrenics? (was: Control system description)

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.02.0400 MDT)]

There's another end to this thread which might prove equally
interesting. I can sum it up by asking "What's wrong with a person
who has schizophrenia?" That's a strange question because what most
people would say is wrong is that the person has schizophrenia. What
I'm asking is specifically what it is, in PCT terms, that a
schizophrenic person wants to control and has difficulty controlling.

This question can be applied to all categories of disorders or mental
illnesses. What does a person with ADHD or ADD have trouble
controlling? I don't mean what would other people prefer such a
person to control better, but what does the person say the difficulty
is? Presumably, when we see a person with a disorder, that person is
not functioning as well as a normal person. Again, I don't mean that
the person fails to function as others want him or her to, which is
what most diagnoses are about. I mean that the symptoms we see arise
because the person is trying and failing to control something. What is it?

I don't know if this is a new approach, but it's the approach
appropriate to PCT. Does anyone ever ask schizophrenics or ADDics
what they're trying to do? What, in the opinion of our clinicians who
may have dealt with these disorders, might be some answers worth
exploring MOL-wise? I'm cc-ing this to Warren Mansell, who has
special interests in this area, and Tim Carey, who will most probably
have some opinions on this subject.

All this is part of the main thread which is about learning to speak
of PCT to others in terms other than our usual in-house technical
terms. The present sub-thread concerns how we could translate the
other way: from normal-science-speak to PCT-speak.

Best,

Bill P.

P.S. Someone learning PCT from Shelley Roy (of IAACT) came up with a
very useful example which belongs in this thread. The student
described a driver suddenly having to apply the brakes. The driver
(clearly a mother) reaches out with one arm to keep the passenger
from pitching forward into the dashboard. S-R theory says that it was
the sight of the passenger pitching forward that resulted in the
driver's arm shooting out and pressing back against the passenger.
PCT, of course, would say that the purpose was to prevent injury to
the passenger. This suggests another sub-thread consisting of
examples in which the PCT explanation makes sense while the
behavioristic and cogitive explanations clearly don't.

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.02.1910 MDT)]

Fred Nickols (2009.05.02.1633 PDT) --

I don't know what's wrong with a person who has schizophrenia - in PCT terms
or otherwise - but I can tell you a fascinating little story about a
psychologist who discovered something unusual when helping a supposedly
paranoid person.

Of course if there's nothing wrong with the person, it would be hard to translate into PCT terms! Interesting story, though.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Abbott (2009.05.03.0945 EDT)]

Bill Powers (2009.05.02.0400 MDT)

BP:
There's another end to this thread which might prove equally interesting. I
can sum it up by asking "What's wrong with a person who has schizophrenia?"
That's a strange question because what most people would say is wrong is
that the person has schizophrenia. What I'm asking is specifically what it
is, in PCT terms, that a schizophrenic person wants to control and has
difficulty controlling.

This question can be applied to all categories of disorders or mental
illnesses. What does a person with ADHD or ADD have trouble controlling? I
don't mean what would other people prefer such a person to control better,
but what does the person say the difficulty is? Presumably, when we see a
person with a disorder, that person is not functioning as well as a normal
person. Again, I don't mean that the person fails to function as others want
him or her to, which is what most diagnoses are about. I mean that the
symptoms we see arise because the person is trying and failing to control
something. What is it?

BA:
The behavioral manifestations that lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia are
diverse. These may include hallucinations (typically, hearing voices),
delusions (beliefs that are manifestly false to most of us), possibly
including delusions of grandeur and/or persecution (the so-called paranoid
delusions), disorganized speech (rambling discourse that may include
"neologisms" or made-up words), which in severe cases degenerates into "word
salad" that still follows grammatical rules but is meaningless to others,
distractibility (difficulty maintaining attention), odd repetitive
behaviors, inappropriate emotional outbursts (e.g., suddenly screaming at
someone for no apparent reason), catatonia (remaining immobile in a state of
"waxy flexibility, often for periods lasting hours), apathy and withdrawal
from the social world, and an apparent inability to experience positive
emotions such as happiness, joy, or love. The particular manifestations
expressed differ from individual to individual and may change over time,
both in severity and in terms of the particular mix displayed.

I worked as a ward attendant at a large state mental hospital for a short
time while in college and had the opportunity to observe a number of persons
who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The dominant impression I had was
that these were people like you and me. With most of them, most of the time,
you could have an ordinary conversation (anti-psychotic medications were
just then coming into use). But I don't mean to convey that there was
nothing wrong with them. Schizophrenia is no illusion. It is a highly
debilitating disorder -- although of course there are degrees, from mild to
severe.

from the PCT perspective, it may be easier to state what isn't wrong than
what is. A person diagnosed as schizophrenic does not appear to have any
problems with lower-level control systems, unless dyskinesias develop as a
side-effect of medication. (Catatonia may be an exception, but see below.)
The person has normal use of skeletal musculature. He or she can walk, talk,
manipulate objects, and so on. Ordinary perception is intact: the person
doesn't walk into walls or step off a sheer drop. Memory seems to function
normally.

On the other hand, the person may be perceiving things that aren't there,
such as a scolding inner voice. Is this the imagination connection run
amuck? The voice seems real enough to the person and entering the head from
some external source. The ability to "reality check" is compromised: the
person may hold fast to beliefs that are contrary to fact, logic, or common
sense. The person may have difficulty controlling attention. In the severe
case of "word salad" an entire monologue may consist of sentences whose only
connections are associative.

Catatonia is an interesting case. The person enters a state immobility
characterized by waxy flexibility. You can move the person's frame around
and he or she will offer no resistance. An arm will stay where you position
it, even if the position is uncomfortable. After the person emerges from
this state, he or she may give you an explanation for it. (One said that he
was saving the world from nuclear holocaust, because one move would upset
the delicate balance between good and evil -- a paranoid delusion of
grandeur, by the way.) My guess is that that these explanations, like those
all of us give, often are not the actual reasons but are generated post hoc
as a way of justifying what we did. It sounds to me as though something is
wrong with the linkages from higher-level reference signals, although beyond
that I'm not sure how to characterize it. The person doesn't fall over, so
low-level systems regulating posture and balance are working, but
higher-level systems seem to be in a "don't care" mode with respect to the
reference settings.

That's just a start at an analysis, but perhaps enough to get the ball
rolling.

Bruce A.

[David Goldstein (2009.05.03.10:31 EDT)]

I haven't had an opportunity to observe people in an inpatient setting like Bruce.

Also, I have only have limited contact with people who have this diagnosis in an outpatient setting. Usually, they would be treated by a Psychiatrist because they take medication. I have mostly been involved in administering Psychological Tests to them and writing reports.

There is a rating scale, called the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), which contains 16 rating scales that a rater uses to assess someone. Each rating scale has the following levels of severity: not present (0), very mild(1), mild(2), moderate(3), moderately severe(4), severe(5), extremely severe(6).

The 16 scales are: somatic concern, anxiety, emotional withdrawal, conceptual disorganization, guilt feelings, tension, mannerisms and posturing, grandiosity, depressive mood, hostility, suspiciousness, hallucinatory behavior, motor retardation, uncooperativeness, blunted affect, (excitement and disorientation).

Two functions are obtained which describe the individual differences:

schizo-depression contrast (S-D) = (conceptual disorganization + hallucinatory behavior + unusual thought content) - (anxiety + guilt + depressive mood).
The higher the ratings in the first parenthesis, the more that a thought disorder is present. The higher the rating in the second parenthesis, the more an affective disorder is present.

coping-resignation contrast (C-R): (hostility + suspiciousness + unusual thought content)- (emotional withdrawal + motor retardation + blunted affect). The higher the ratings in the first parenthesis, the higher the coping (active). The higher the ratings in the second parethesis the higher the resignation (passive).

These two contrast functions can be used to define a psychopathology space that has nine region. On the Y-axis, we have thinking disturbande (+) to Anxious Depression (-). On the X-axis we have Withdrawal-retardation (-) to Hostile-Suspiciousness (+).

I routinely administer the BPRS to adults and then apply the two contrast functions and then see where the person falls in the psychopathology space.

The Schizophrenias are described in the first three areas:
Withdrawn, diorganized thinking disturbance--S-D contrast = 3.03; C-R contrast = -3.51
Simple thinking disturbance--S-D contrast = 3.62; C-R contrast = -.28
Disorganization, active, hostile, suspicious thinking types--S-D contrast = 2.83; C-R contrast = 3.04

They are similar in the S-D contrast and different in the C-R contrast.

Applying PCT ideas to this, one can ask: What is conceptual disorganization in PCT terms?
What is hallucinatory behavior in PCT terms? What is unusual thought content in PCT terms?

···

----- Original Message ----- From: "Bruce Abbott" <bbabbott@VERIZON.NET>
To: <CSGNET@LISTSERV.ILLINOIS.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, May 03, 2009 9:47 AM
Subject: Re: What's wrong with schizophrenics? (was: Control system description)

[From Bruce Abbott (2009.05.03.0945 EDT)]

Bill Powers (2009.05.02.0400 MDT)

BP:
There's another end to this thread which might prove equally interesting. I
can sum it up by asking "What's wrong with a person who has schizophrenia?"
That's a strange question because what most people would say is wrong is
that the person has schizophrenia. What I'm asking is specifically what it
is, in PCT terms, that a schizophrenic person wants to control and has
difficulty controlling.

This question can be applied to all categories of disorders or mental
illnesses. What does a person with ADHD or ADD have trouble controlling? I
don't mean what would other people prefer such a person to control better,
but what does the person say the difficulty is? Presumably, when we see a
person with a disorder, that person is not functioning as well as a normal
person. Again, I don't mean that the person fails to function as others want
him or her to, which is what most diagnoses are about. I mean that the
symptoms we see arise because the person is trying and failing to control
something. What is it?

BA:
The behavioral manifestations that lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia are
diverse. These may include hallucinations (typically, hearing voices),
delusions (beliefs that are manifestly false to most of us), possibly
including delusions of grandeur and/or persecution (the so-called paranoid
delusions), disorganized speech (rambling discourse that may include
"neologisms" or made-up words), which in severe cases degenerates into "word
salad" that still follows grammatical rules but is meaningless to others,
distractibility (difficulty maintaining attention), odd repetitive
behaviors, inappropriate emotional outbursts (e.g., suddenly screaming at
someone for no apparent reason), catatonia (remaining immobile in a state of
"waxy flexibility, often for periods lasting hours), apathy and withdrawal
from the social world, and an apparent inability to experience positive
emotions such as happiness, joy, or love. The particular manifestations
expressed differ from individual to individual and may change over time,
both in severity and in terms of the particular mix displayed.

I worked as a ward attendant at a large state mental hospital for a short
time while in college and had the opportunity to observe a number of persons
who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The dominant impression I had was
that these were people like you and me. With most of them, most of the time,
you could have an ordinary conversation (anti-psychotic medications were
just then coming into use). But I don't mean to convey that there was
nothing wrong with them. Schizophrenia is no illusion. It is a highly
debilitating disorder -- although of course there are degrees, from mild to
severe.

From the PCT perspective, it may be easier to state what isn't wrong than
what is. A person diagnosed as schizophrenic does not appear to have any
problems with lower-level control systems, unless dyskinesias develop as a
side-effect of medication. (Catatonia may be an exception, but see below.)
The person has normal use of skeletal musculature. He or she can walk, talk,
manipulate objects, and so on. Ordinary perception is intact: the person
doesn't walk into walls or step off a sheer drop. Memory seems to function
normally.

On the other hand, the person may be perceiving things that aren't there,
such as a scolding inner voice. Is this the imagination connection run
amuck? The voice seems real enough to the person and entering the head from
some external source. The ability to "reality check" is compromised: the
person may hold fast to beliefs that are contrary to fact, logic, or common
sense. The person may have difficulty controlling attention. In the severe
case of "word salad" an entire monologue may consist of sentences whose only
connections are associative.

Catatonia is an interesting case. The person enters a state immobility
characterized by waxy flexibility. You can move the person's frame around
and he or she will offer no resistance. An arm will stay where you position
it, even if the position is uncomfortable. After the person emerges from
this state, he or she may give you an explanation for it. (One said that he
was saving the world from nuclear holocaust, because one move would upset
the delicate balance between good and evil -- a paranoid delusion of
grandeur, by the way.) My guess is that that these explanations, like those
all of us give, often are not the actual reasons but are generated post hoc
as a way of justifying what we did. It sounds to me as though something is
wrong with the linkages from higher-level reference signals, although beyond
that I'm not sure how to characterize it. The person doesn't fall over, so
low-level systems regulating posture and balance are working, but
higher-level systems seem to be in a "don't care" mode with respect to the
reference settings.

That's just a start at an analysis, but perhaps enough to get the ball
rolling.

Bruce A.

[From Rick Marken (2009.05.03.0900)]

Bruce Abbott (2009.05.03.0945 EDT)–

The behavioral manifestations that lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia are diverse. These may include…

Sounds like a description of a perfectly normal right wing Republican (except for the catatonia, unfortunately;-).

I recall that William Glasser (of all people) gave what I thought was a nice (though somewhat vague) PCT explanation of what’s now called ADHD (hyperactivity then). His idea was that these kids were trying to create some “stimulation” for themselves. What an outside observer sees as hyperactivity is just a side effect of the kids’ efforts to produce this stimulation for themselves. The evidence for this is that ridilin (a stimulant) is what quiets these kids down; the drug now provides the “stimulation” that the kids had had to provide for themselves by flailing about. The same kind of explanation would probably apply to schizophrenics; what we see as “odd behavior” is just a side effect of the person’s efforts to produce some kind of perception for themselves. Of course, figuring out what those perceptions might be is the tough part, for me anyway.

Best

Rick

···


Richard S. Marken PhD
rsmarken@gmail.com

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.03.08523 MDT)]

Bruce Abbott (2009.05.03.0945 EDT) --

BP: An excellent start on the discussion of PCT and disorders. Let me stir the pot a little more.

BA:

The behavioral manifestations that lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia are
diverse. These may include hallucinations (typically, hearing voices),

BP: This is a problem for other people who worry about the reality of the voices and what that implies, but how is it a problem for the person having the hallucinations? That's what I would ask about. Is it all right with you to be hearing these voices? If not, why not? If it's OK, we can move on to something else. I've discussed hallucinations with people who had them, and most of them were very bothered by having them. If I'd known about MOL then, we might have got further, but I did explore the hallucinations with them, asking things like whose voices they were, and so on. Maybe just my not being upset by knowing the person heard voices was helpful. They didn't seem so bothered afterward. The voices didn't necessarily stop, but people would say, "Oh, there's Grandma Harriet again."

BA: delusions (beliefs that are manifestly false to most of us), possibly
including delusions of grandeur and/or persecution (the so-called paranoid
delusions),

Again, that is defining the problem that other people have with the person who is deluded (that's a social problem). What if you simply ask the person what he or she thinks about those ideas? Back when I was about to give up on dianetics, I started doing a lot of MOL-like stuff (unwittingly) with clients because I really didn't know what else to do. One person I will not name told me he had been making a living in Las Vegas by betting quarters on a roulette wheel which he had learned to time (they let you bet while the ball is still rolling). He won enough to eat but didn't make larger bets because he knew The Mob would kick him out or kill him if he won too much. He described to me the day he realized that his toothache was being caused by a radar beam coming from the sign he could see on the Silver Dollar Cafe (a big round thing like a radar dish) out his hotel window . He knew this was a delusion but at the same time knew it was true. We just kept exploring this and his other problems. I had no idea what advice to give him, so I didn't give him any (we didn't, anyway, in dianetics). Maybe he was already recovering by the time he got to me, but he didn't think so (his main problem, he felt, was a painful homosexual relationship he was in with someone who mistreated him). But just exploring his delusions and his feelings about them seemed to do the trick. I wouldn't say he came "back to normal," because I don't think he ever was, or ought to be, that, but by the time we finished he felt that his problems had been resolved and he felt much better. That was all I was after.

BA: disorganized speech (rambling discourse that may include
"neologisms" or made-up words), which in severe cases degenerates into "word
salad" that still follows grammatical rules but is meaningless to others,

BP: I wouldn't have the least idea what to do with that. Maybe ask the person what the words or pseudo-sentences mean? Maybe I'd say "I didn't understand any of that -- is that all right with you?" But I would try to determine if there was something about this behavior that was a problem for that person, not just for other people.

BA: distractibility (difficulty maintaining attention), odd repetitive
behaviors, inappropriate emotional outbursts (e.g., suddenly screaming at
someone for no apparent reason), catatonia (remaining immobile in a state of
"waxy flexibility, often for periods lasting hours), apathy and withdrawal
from the social world, and an apparent inability to experience positive
emotions such as happiness, joy, or love.

BP: in each of these examples, I'd try to find out, if I could, if the state in question bothered the person demonstrating it. If a person suddenly screamed at me "for no apparent reason", I'd ask if there were any reasons for that, not say it was "inappropriate." Or I'd just ask if the person is feeling very angry, or ask what the person would like to happen just then.

The whole theme I'm trying to get across here is the idea of trying to find out what errors the person is trying to correct, or what difficulties there are with correcting them. My own opinions of what is wrong with the person are irrelevant from the PCT point of view. I can't reorganize the other person (though plugging his brain into a wall socket might do some of that, if not in a very organized way).

BA: I worked as a ward attendant at a large state mental hospital for a short
time while in college and had the opportunity to observe a number of persons
who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The dominant impression I had was
that these were people like you and me. With most of them, most of the time,
you could have an ordinary conversation (anti-psychotic medications were
just then coming into use). But I don't mean to convey that there was
nothing wrong with them. Schizophrenia is no illusion. It is a highly
debilitating disorder -- although of course there are degrees, from mild to
severe.

BP: Yes. But "debilitating" is in the eye of the beholder -- it depends on what someone thinks the person ought to be able to do. If that someone is the person in question, fine, but if it's someone else, nobody is going to reorganize in any fundamental way just to make someone else feel better.

And somehow I doubt that the same thing was wrong with every one of those "schizophrenics." That's just a category, isn't it?

In high school I sometimes played boogie woogie piano in the mental wards of the VA hospital in Hines, Illinois (my mother was a Gray Lady there). I had the same impression that you got: I wasn't very different from the guys locked up there. Perhaps I was even a bit less different from them than you were. Even they, however, told me they were different (but that I didn't need to worry about it, which I learned not to do). But the question I had and still have comes down to this: what did THEY think their problem was, and was anyone trying to help them with that?

BA: From the PCT perspective, it may be easier to state what isn't wrong than
what is. A person diagnosed as schizophrenic does not appear to have any
problems with lower-level control systems, unless dyskinesias develop as a
side-effect of medication. (Catatonia may be an exception, but see below.)
The person has normal use of skeletal musculature. He or she can walk, talk,
manipulate objects, and so on. Ordinary perception is intact: the person
doesn't walk into walls or step off a sheer drop. Memory seems to function
normally.

BP: Yes, it's clearly a higher-level problem, though in many cases I think it's a problem with how to deal with lower-level problems like hallucinations. There isn't anything abnormal about hearing voices that aren't really there; sometimes that's how I remember parts of a conversation. It's just the imagination connection. The real problems arise in the higher-order interpretations of what the voices say, or of the fact that they are experienced.

BA: On the other hand, the person may be perceiving things that aren't there,
such as a scolding inner voice. Is this the imagination connection run
amuck?

Why "run amuck?" That's how it's supposed to work. Maybe the problem is with a higher-order system that keeps the voices turned on all the time, for some reason we might explore.

The voice seems real enough to the person and entering the head from
some external source. The ability to "reality check" is compromised: the
person may hold fast to beliefs that are contrary to fact, logic, or common
sense. The person may have difficulty controlling attention. In the severe
case of "word salad" an entire monologue may consist of sentences whose only
connections are associative.

That's what I would focus on: do the voices sound real, and does the person think they are really real? In the worst cases you describe, naturally we have to suspect some kind of organic problem that can't be dealt with psychologically, but I'd never assume that to start with. You and I have debugged enough programs to know that a wise analyst never starts out by blaming the hardware.

Catatonia is an interesting case. The person enters a state immobility
characterized by waxy flexibility. You can move the person's frame around
and he or she will offer no resistance. An arm will stay where you position
it, even if the position is uncomfortable. After the person emerges from
this state, he or she may give you an explanation for it. (One said that he
was saving the world from nuclear holocaust, because one move would upset
the delicate balance between good and evil -- a paranoid delusion of
grandeur, by the way.)

Yes, I suppose so, but did it seem like a delusion to the person? The other rationalizing phenomenon happens in hypnosis, too (Oh, I just though you might be amused if I tugged on your beard a little). We do like to make sense of our own behavior.

My guess is that that these explanations, like those
all of us give, often are not the actual reasons but are generated post hoc
as a way of justifying what we did. It sounds to me as though something is
wrong with the linkages from higher-level reference signals, although beyond
that I'm not sure how to characterize it. The person doesn't fall over, so
low-level systems regulating posture and balance are working, but
higher-level systems seem to be in a "don't care" mode with respect to the
reference settings.

That's just a start at an analysis, but perhaps enough to get the ball
rolling.

Good, let's see what others have to say.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Chris Bory (2009.05.03.1829 EDT)]

BP: Welcome aboard, Chris. How about telling us a little more about how you got here, what you do, and so on?

CB: Thank you for the warm welcome! I said a bit about myself several weeks back - in short, I’m a doctoral student in clinical psychology getting acclimated with PCT and MOL and found this forum to be intellectually stimulating.

BP: We think about this very much alike. I think “depathologizing” is a great word which we ought to use frequently. The problem with categorizing, or pathologizing, is that as soon as you put a label on a person, you become less able to see that person as the one right in front of you, and start interpreting everything you see in the light of the category. You’re looking at the average of a lot of past experiences with a lot of people, which blinds you to the real person.

CB: I whole heartedly agree.

BP: Yes. Interactions with and effects on other people are legitimate concerns, but they are sociological problems, and have nothing directly to do with therapy. It’s hard to keep the two separated, of course.

CB: I think sociological concerns and issues that impact the individual can have a great impact on therapy. For example, exploring the oppression of women and sexual minorities in a social context within individual therapy may directly impact the individual in therapy (If that is what the client was describing in therapy - was that what you were addressing?)

Now how can we explain these principles to people who know nothing of PCT? That’s the main theme of this thread, or I hope it is. What you’ve done is circle around some statements of principle concerning diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. What, exactly, is the PCT position here? I’m not concerned over whether it matches older views or doesn’t; the point is to figure out how to say, clearly and non-technically, what PCT leads us to think about human beings. The idea isn’t to pick a fight, but just to be clear about what we mean.

CB: In response to your questions, it brought to me to think about the process that is actually going on in this thread - we’re asking here how we can explain PCT to people who know nothing about it. Taking a meta-perspective then, should we go up a level first? Should the first question be why are we asking how to tell people about PCT? Maybe if we start to understand why we want to tell others about PCT, how to go about telling them may be easier. I could think of several reasons why we want to tell others, but it seems that there may be some conflict within and I can’t make assumptions about the subjective experience of others. I’m not sure if I’m making myself clear - let me know and I’ll try to clarify.

Cheers,

Chris

[From Dick Robertson, 2009.05.032235CDT]

My offering on the Schizophrenia discussion

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.02.0400 MDT)]

There’s another end to this thread which might prove equally interesting. I can sum it up by asking “What’s wrong with a person who has schizophrenia?” That’s a strange question because what most people would say is wrong is that the person has schizophrenia. What I’m asking is specifically what it is, in PCT terms, that a schizophrenic person wants to control and has difficulty controlling.

DR: Let’s start with the simpler question of: What he’s trying to do? You can ask the person and get his conscious intention, if he’s willing to give it. A different issue is the hypotheses that one or more of his audience would attribute as to what they think he is trying to do. Both of those questions are simpler than what he “wants to control” in the sense that—until we have a successful outcome of “the Test” these simpler data are all we have to work with.

BP: This question can be applied to all categories of disorders or mental illnesses. What does a person with ADHD or ADD have trouble controlling? I don’t mean what would other people prefer such a person to control better, but what does the person say the difficulty is? Presumably, when we see a person with a disorder, that person is not functioning as well as a normal person. Again, I don’t mean that the person fails to function as others want him or her to, which is what most diagnoses are about. I mean that the symptoms we see arise because the person is trying and failing to control something.

DR: Or not.

BP: What is it?

DR: Other people have come into the picture now. When you say “when we see a person with a disorder, that person is not functioning as well as a normal person…the person is trying and failing to control something” I think we have two issues here. First, somebody is making a judgment the S “has” a disorder. It seldom is himself, at least the first time. I wish I could see a person do that very first thing that brings other people into his equation in such a way that—eventually—someone (presumably with some kind of authority) stamps him with a label. Those first events could range all the way from—

something all kinds of people would judge as “disturbed” – like talking to someone nobody else can see, shouting gibberish at people and looking like he thinks he is communicating (leave our foreign language problems); stripping naked and running down a crowded straight in the middle of the day; claiming that enemies are attacking, etc –

–to someone in a highly wrought up state pushing people out of the way, or buttonholing them, in some kind of emergency, etc. I wish I could remember how the hero-victim of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” first got labeled as psychotic, but I seem to have a vague memory that it entailed some action that many of us would do under certain emergency circumstances, but happened to fall under the purview of someone “looking” for “abnormal behavior” to take over. While that was a novel, it has real-life plausibility.

That second issue of the person trying and failing to control something now splits into two issues: the “legitimate” one of someone clearly unable to perform some “task of daily living” or cooperate with appropriate others (Police, family, teachers, etc) because of “not being all there;” as against the illegitimate one where a person with good reason to be highly upset can’t bother to satisfy the (improper) demands of someone who thinks they have authority over him in the situation.

But after that first episode, whether involving a truly sick person or a normal person with an emergency in face of an authority-ridden bully—once the S gets subdued and labeled a whole new set of circumstances comes into play.

I used to see people with labels of “schizophrenia” and “paranoid-schiz” in the nursing home visits in my private practice until I retired (still do half a dozen times a year when a friend is on vacation.) I never get to see them in the “primary” condition of the person in Fred’s delightful story—Because—once they have that label they are medicated silly. So I don’t get the chance to ask them in their “normal-psychotic condition” (if they even deserve the label) to see what they would tell me they are/were trying to do.

So I observe them and make guesses about what condition they are trying to control. An obvious—and often the biggest one—is that they are doing what’s necessary to continue to merit their diagnosis, because it’s bread and butter to them now. Once you have been medicated silly for a while and gotten rusty on whatever money-earning skills you might have once had, it’s pretty important to continue eligible for “treatment.” – i.e. a bed and 3 squares a day. Naturally no one says that’s what they are controlling for, neither patient nor staff, because that would entail a label of “malingering,” discharge for the patient and loss of income for the establishment.

Medicare does have a line in their rules that allows for helping ameliorate anxiety and depression in people for whom it is unlikely they could live outside the shelter of the nursing home. So that is what we do. We try to hold as natural as possible conversation with them, hoping it means something to them that someone cares enough to converse, and in the NHs I have worked in nobody but the psychologist has time for that.

The medication—or maybe the loss of a sense of emergency from now having a secure room and board—often does render the person able to converse normally about many day to day things while he may or may not indulge in some channel of weirdness. I used to see a paranoid-schizophrenic who was extremely popular with his fellow residents because he could fix all kinds of things for them. I don’t think he bothered to tell them all the ways he had for detecting that the FBI was out to make his life miserable (a fairly common delusion among this class of people), but he shared it with me. We found some common ground as each of us had been in the navy in WWII, I as S2c, he as Machinist’s Mate. After his discharge he worked as a diesel mechanic for a large trucking outfit in central IL. His view of how that ended was somewhat foggy. From hearing his versions a number of times I began to suspect that –as a black man in a rather well-paid job in the 1950s—he was cheated by his employer and harassed or threatened by some rivals. So he might have had reasons to believe not to expect justice, and a corrupt FBI has had a lot of conspiracy-theory material over the years to serve as a good candidate for persecution.

Just a hunch. As far as I could ever get in that case.

One more point about the patient in Fred’s story. The parents’ behavior sounds like a variant of the “double-bind” mechanism that some well known west coast psychiatrist (sorry can’t recall name) developed in the 60s I think., as his theory of schizophreno-genesis. You have to wonder if the parents could do that to their kid after she got in the hospital what might they have done that led her there in the first place?

As to the incompetence that many psychotic people show, I think it is very difficult to separate out what is genuine incompetence–from interference with program level-and below- systems by conflicted principles, from incompetence from medication, from “intended” incompetence from some principle that might control for “don’t get too independent.”

It would be interesting to have a few computers set up in a nursing home or hospital with tracking tasks and the ecoli program, and encourage patients to try them. Would they do about like any of us or not?

Best,

Dick R

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.04.0740 MDT)]

Chris Bory (2009.05.03.1829 EDT) –

BP: Sorry – I found your previous post which I forgot all
about.

CB: In response to your
questions, it brought to me to think about the process that is actually
going on in this thread - we’re asking here how we can explain PCT
to people who know nothing about it. Taking a meta-perspective then,
should we go up a level first? Should the first question be why
are we asking how to tell people about PCT? Maybe if we start to
understand why we want to tell others about PCT, how to go
about telling them may be easier. I could think of several reasons
why we want to tell others, but it seems that there may be some
conflict within and I can’t make assumptions about the subjective
experience of others. I’m not sure if I’m making myself clear - let me
know and I’ll try to clarify.

BP: I understand, all right. You’re correct, the higher-level reasons for
communicating are the important thing here. I alluded to a dream called
The Center for the Study of Living Control Systems, which is a big part
of my reasons. We don’t have the resources yet that will lead to this
goal, so we have to persuade those who have the resources to give them to
us. The best persuader I know of is simply an understanding of PCT. But
the catch is that this understanding requires, right now, some bravery
about plunging into technical details, and we’re not likely to find that
sort of bravery in the places where psychology is popular.

So my thought is that we will be better off going more than halfway to a
meeting of minds. We can keep the technical discussions in-house, and
find a vocabulary which will not put off people who balk at numbers or
quantitative models. This will also have the benefit of linking PCT more
closely to ordinary life, and showing people not yet in the technical
mode what they would be learning if they decided to come aboard. The
threshold for understanding PCT in all its glory is rather high, so I
thought we ought to build some nice easy steps for getting to
it.

Best,

Bill P.

···

Cheers,

Chris

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.05.0703 mdt)]
Dick Robertson, 2009.05.032235CDT –
DR: Let’s start with the simpler question of: What he’s trying to do? You
can ask the person and get his conscious intention, if he’s willing to
give it. A different issue is the hypotheses that one or more of his
audience would attribute as to what they think he is trying to do. Both
of those questions are simpler than what he “wants to control” in the
sense that—until we have a successful outcome of “the Test” these simpler
data are all we have to work with.
BP: Agreed. Start in present time with what is happening now, from the
client’s viewpoint. Asking what a person is trying to do is an example of
ordinary language being used judiciously where it translates directly
into PCT language: doing is controlling. When you ask a person what he’s
doing, the answer will usually be not a description of muscle tensions or
appendage movements, but a description of controlled variables: “I’m
trying to get the lid off this damned bottle.” Lid off bottle
is a reference condition for a controlled variable, the state of the lid.
And of course we always mentally insert “perceived.” But
we don’t need to say that; we just have to remember to use “do”
in such a way that it would always translate legitimately into
“control.”

Bruce Abbott reminds us that the original intent of this thread was to
work out ways of communicating PCT to people unfamiliar with the
technical aspects of the theory. I agree that these questions of
therapeutic technique are straying into other territory, but in the field
of therapy is where we encounter a lot of the conceptual entities that
psychologists have thought they were dealing with, such as mood, anxiety,
depression, personality, and a whole raft of others. In PCT we use none
of these terms because we’re concerned with the features of organization
that are common to all situations and all the specific things the
hierarchy might be doing. So we do need some bridges from the general to
the specific and back. I’m attaching a paper Warren Mansell sent for us
to see, which starts out very much in a conventional (or at least
familiar-to-some) mode and makes a nice transition into the PCT
orientation, both in terms of language and of therapeutic methods. This
is great pedagogy. But we can do still better, by being explicit about
the relation between the underlying precisely-defined theoretical terms
and the common-language terms that generally have meanings spread all
over the place.

DR: Other people have come into
the picture now. When you say “when we see a person with a disorder, that
person is not functioning as well as a normal person…the person is trying
and failing to control something” I think we have two issues here. First,
somebody is making a judgment the S “has” a disorder. It seldom is
himself, at least the first time. I wish I could see a person do
that very first thing that brings other people into his equation in such
a way that—eventually—someone (presumably with some kind of authority)
stamps him with a label. Those first events could range all the way from
something all kinds of people would judge as “disturbed” – like talking
to someone nobody else can see, shouting gibberish at people and looking
like he thinks he is communicating (leave our foreign language problems);
stripping naked and running down a crowded straight in the middle of the
day; claiming that enemies are attacking, etc – to someone in a highly
wrought up state pushing people out of the way, or buttonholing them, in
some kind of emergency, etc.

BP: This is a theme that everyone seems to be raising in one way or
another: what others think is wrong behavior vs what the person thinks is
wrong behavior. But to shift the emphasis a little, it shows us that
there is a third aspect: what the client thinks the problem is. Forget
about whether anyone’s opinions about behavior are right or wrong; the
question becomes, from the client’s viewpoint, what am I, in fact, trying
to do? The person sees one set of things going on; other people see a
different set. In the PCT approach to therapy, what the other people
think is irrelevant, except in the sense of what the client perceives
their attitudes to be, and at a higher level, thinks about those
attitudes.

I’m reminded of earlier discussions of social control. Are there social
control systems, do they have existence independently of individuals? Is
there such a thing as bipolar disorder that exists outside the
imagination of the diagnoser? That’s a question about objective reality,
but in the present context the answer doesn’t matter. What we would want
to know is what the person thinks about the disorder or its symptoms.
What do you think about the fact that you’re having all these problems?
We simply bypass the diagnostic categories and as Warren commented once
to Tim Carey, “… go right for the schema.”

DR: That second issue of the
person trying and failing to control something now splits into two
issues: the “legitimate” one of someone clearly unable to perform some
“task of daily living” or cooperate with appropriate others (Police,
family, teachers, etc) because of “not being all there;” as against the
illegitimate one where a person with good reason to be highly upset can’t
bother to satisfy the (improper) demands of someone who thinks they have
authority over him in the situation.

BP: Legitimate in whose opinion? It has to come back to the client,
doesn’t it? We can’t directly deal with interpersonal conflicts, but
interpersonal conflicts persist because people have internal conflicts
about what they will allow themselves to do, or believe they can do.
Israelis could solve most of their problems with Iran if they would just,
at a carefully selected time, nuke Tehran. Of course they know that this
would cause an enormous escalation of other problems so even if they want
to do it they don’t do it. It’s their internal conflict that leaves them
not able to do much in any direction (I’m not recommending the nuke
solution).

The “legitimate” issue is of no interest to us unless we’re
contemplating therapy for everyone else. The client may be upset by what
he perceives as improper demands by someone else, but the properness of
the demands is not what we would discuss with the client. We would ask
about the upsetness. What is it you want to do? How would it feel better
for you if you complied, and how would it feel worse for you? What keeps
you from doing something about this situation?

DR: I used to see people with
labels of “schizophrenia” and “paranoid-schiz” in the nursing home visits
in my private practice until I retired (still do half a dozen times a
year when a friend is on vacation.) I never get to see them in the
“primary” condition of the person in Fred’s delightful
story—Because—once they have that label they are medicated silly. So I
don’t get the chance to ask them in their “normal-psychotic condition”
(if they even deserve the label) to see what they would tell me they
are/were trying to do.

BP: I’ve already agreed with this. I don’t subscribe to the “taking
the edge off” notion about medications, though I admit that I
wouldn’t know how to handle a violently raving maniac or someone busily
slashing his wrists. All I can really say is what you’re saying: try to
see the client in his baseline state if possible. But that’s just a
question of technique and we’re trying to discuss another
subject.

DR: So I observe them and make
guesses about what condition they are trying to control. An
obvious—and often the biggest one—is that they are doing what’s
necessary to continue to merit their diagnosis, because it’s bread and
butter to them now. Once you have been medicated silly for a while and
gotten rusty on whatever money-earning skills you might have once had,
it’s pretty important to continue eligible for “treatment.” – i.e. a bed
and 3 squares a day. Naturally no one says that’s what they are
controlling for, neither patient nor staff, because that would entail a
label of “malingering,” discharge for the patient and loss of income for
the establishment.

Malingering is a problem only if you think (a) it’s normal to want to
live in a mental hospital, and (b) you’re never going to help this person
get any better. I think the objection to malingering comes from seeing
this as a social game between doctor and patient, with the doctor not
wanting to be made a fool of by giving treatments to someone who doesn’t
need them. From the PCT point of view, all we want to know about
malingering is what aim is being accomplished by doing it. Remember
Klinger in MAS*H? Everybody knew he was trying to malinger and
everybody sympathized, so it wasn’t such a big sin there on the edge of
the combat zone. In the PCT approach, it’s not a sin or something to be
avoided. It’s just what the client is doing, and we’re interested in why,
without offering any theories of our own.

DR: One more point about the
patient in Fred’s story. The parents’ behavior sounds like a variant of
the “double-bind” mechanism that some well known west coast psychiatrist
(sorry can’t recall name) developed in the 60s I think., as his theory of
schizophreno-genesis. You have to wonder if the parents could do that to
their kid after she got in the hospital what might they have done that
led her there in the first place?

BP: The double bind theory was proposed by Gregory Bateson (I thought I
remembered that but looked it up on the Web. God what a resource: the
first entry and I didn’t even have to leave Google). We’d just call it a
conflict, or two conflicts.

DR: As to the incompetence that
many psychotic people show, I think it is very difficult to separate out
what is genuine incompetence–from interference with program level-and
below- systems by conflicted principles, from incompetence from
medication, from “intended” incompetence from some principle that might
control for “don’t get too independent.”

Incompetence is someone else’s opinion. If the client says he or she is
incompetent, that’s another matter. I would ask, “Does that bother
you?”

It would be interesting to have
a few computers set up in a nursing home or hospital with tracking tasks
and the ecoli program, and encourage patients to try them. Would they do
about like any of us or not?

I’m dubious about using lower-order tasks to give insights about
higher-order problems. The general psychological premise seems to be that
anything you can really actually measure about behavior might tell you
something useful about anything else you want to know about the person,
but to me that sounds like desperation. Different levels don’t operate in
the same way. I’ve cooperated with several people by supplying special
versions of my programs for them to use in this way, but my private
(formerly private) opinion has never been very optimistic that anything
would come of it. I do it because I have been wrong before, once or
twice.

As I see it, the objective here is still that of communicating PCT
without relying on our own jargon or technical terms. This takes is into
all fields of psychology, because we’re so often asked “How does PCT
explain X?” where X is any psychological construct like anxiety or
sibling rivalry or depression. When people ask things like that you can
tell right away that there’s no real underlying model there; the term
itself stands for something baffling. You can describe, say, depression
in all sorts of ways, saying how it makes people feel or discussing when
it might happen or how you can ameliorate it, but when someone asks,
“What IS depression, anyway?” the best conventional
psychologists can do is repeat the list of descriptions. To talk about it
as a state of being, you need a model. Our model, of course.

Best,

Bill P.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Mood Swings and Bipolar Disorders.doc (347 KB)

[From Chris Bory (2009.05.05.1612 EDT)]

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.04.0740 MDT)]

BP: Sorry – I found your previous post which I forgot all about.

CB: Not a problem; no worries.

BP: I understand, all right. You’re correct, the higher-level reasons for communicating are the important thing here. I alluded to a dream called The Center for the Study of Living Control Systems, which is a big part of my reasons. We don’t have the resources yet that will lead to this goal, so we have to persuade those who have the resources to give them to us. The best persuader I know of is simply an understanding of PCT. But the catch is that this understanding requires, right now, some bravery about plunging into technical details, and we’re not likely to find that sort of bravery in the places where psychology is popular.

So my thought is that we will be better off going more than halfway to a meeting of minds. We can keep the technical discussions in-house, and find a vocabulary which will not put off people who balk at numbers or quantitative models. This will also have the benefit of linking PCT more closely to ordinary life, and showing people not yet in the technical mode what they would be learning if they decided to come aboard. The threshold for understanding PCT in all its glory is rather high, so I thought we ought to build some nice easy steps for getting to it.

CB: After reading your post it got me thinking about how we can go about telling others about PCT - I guess just a brief explanation of the why helped to kick start my engine. I had several ideas, and not sure if any are good, but I guess I’ll throw them out there and see what happens.

My first thought was, why not just try it out with someone. That is, go up to a person that has no knowledge about control systems, or even the traditional psychological theories of human behavior and try to engage them in a conversation about their behavior - see what they have to say, listen to how they understand their own behavior, and how do they see their daily life. Maybe, depending on how this conversation goes and the individual’s level of patience and willingness to remain engaged, try to start talking about that there might be another way of looking at their behavior. In other words, I think, just like in therapy, start where they are at - start where the “average” person is at and work from there. And, this starting point may be different for many people. Maybe, as we go out there and test this hypothesis we will start to begin to notice a pattern in people’s starting point, a pattern in how we go about talking about a new way of thinking about behavior, and/or a pattern of trying to persuade the individuals with the resources (as you said previously). Maybe, I would start with this notion - looking at patterns in how we think, in how we behave, in how we feel, in how we control, and in how we sense. I guess I’m trying to address your initial question and proposition of explaining PCT in ordinary language and for some reason pattern identification and recognition comes up for me. This may or may not work, or may be completely irrelevant but I guess that’s what this forum is for - a different perspective.

Cheers,

Chris

I know less about
neurtransmitters than you and many others but I know that a common
neurotransmitter is acetylcholine. I have read that neuroscientists have
done experiments where they have studied the effect of smoking
sigarettes. In short the results tell us that the nicotine reaches the
brain and the EEG changes within 10 seconds. The EEG change indicate a
less relaxed mode.

The nicotine takes the place
that acetylcholine has.
[From Bill Powers (2009.05.06.0838 MDT)]

Bjorn Simonsen (2009.05.04.21:20 PM
EU ST) –

This example with nicotine is not
what engage me. It is the story that transmitters can be replaced and in
this way make parts of the brain more or less sensitive. And if this
happpens, the way people control their perceptions are
affected.

BP: This is an interesting observation. Yes, people will alter
their actions in order to maintain the same perceptions when something
disturbs them. But notice how that works out if PCT is correct: nicotine
DOES NOT affect the activities of neurons that use acetylcholine. The
nicotine tends to disturb the activity of those neurons, but the control
system involved alters what it is doing enough to cancel most of the
effect. The appearance, of course, is that the nicotine caused the change
in behavior, but it was the change in behavior (or in neural activity
shown by the EEG) that prevented the nicotine from having any more
effect than it did have. The “less relaxed mode” shows us what
kind of change is needed to prevent nicotine from having an effect on
some controlled variable or variables.

When you start thinking in terms of closed loops, all the apparent
effects of biochemicals in the brain have to be reinterpreted. The whole
point of the closed loop is to control something. Disturbances that tend
to alter a controlled variable will result in actions that limit the
alteration to some small amount – just enough to cause the opposing
action to be large enough to prevent the disturbance from having much
effect.

I don’t know that this is the case for the specific example you describe.
But when you consider the drastic change this would have, if true, on in
the way we understand the effects of chemicals in the brain, it becomes
obvious that all conclusions have to be suspended until we find out
whether this is indeed the case. There is no point in going any further
with current investigations of brain chemistry until this is sorted
out.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.06.0856 MDT)]

Chris Bory (2009.05.05.1612 EDT)]

My first thought was, why not just try it out with someone. That is, go up to a person that has no knowledge about control systems, or even the traditional psychological theories of human behavior and try to engage them in a conversation about their behavior - see what they have to say, listen to how they understand their own behavior, and how do they see their daily life.

This is the heart of the problem. When you go up to someone and start talking about psychological theories of human behavior, they are likely to give you a funny look and remember an urgent appointment somewhere else. I've been going up to strangers and trying to tell them about control theory for approximately (2009 - 1953) = 56 years. Some of them, like you, wanted to know more, but most of them didn't. Should I have tried harder to engage those who weren't interested? Looking at the techniques that are commonly used to get people's attention and interest, I don't think so. A person who would fall for those tricks (Try PCT and have terrific sex!) might not actually further the cause of PCT very much.

Perhaps this shows only that I'm very inept at salesmanship. If so, I'd be quite happy if someone else could try this and make it work. My approach is more like fishing: bait the hook and put it in some place visible, like a book or an article, and find out who nibbles at it. The ones who do select themselves and are quite likely to hook themselves.

Your suggestion is basically market research, at a somewhat higher level than usual. By all means try it, if you can find the resources. Dag Forssell would be a better person to talk with about this than I.

Best,

Bill P.

From Jim Wuwert 2009.05.06.1450

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.06.0856 MDT)]

Chris Bory (2009.05.05.1612 EDT)]

My first thought was, why not just try it out with someone. That is,
go up to a person that has no knowledge about control systems, or
even the traditional psychological theories of human behavior and
try to engage them in a conversation about their behavior - see what
they have to say, listen to how they understand their own behavior,
and how do they see their daily life.

This is the heart of the problem. When you go up to someone and start
talking about psychological theories of human behavior, they are
likely to give you a funny look and remember an urgent appointment
somewhere else. I’ve been going up to strangers and trying to tell
them about control theory for approximately (2009 - 1953) = 56 years.
Some of them, like you, wanted to know more, but most of them didn’t.
Should I have tried harder to engage those who weren’t interested?
Looking at the techniques that are commonly used to get people’s
attention and interest, I don’t think so. A person who would fall for
those tricks (Try PCT and have terrific sex!) might not actually
further the cause of PCT very much.

Perhaps this shows only that I’m very inept at salesmanship. If so,
I’d be quite happy if someone else could try this and make it work.
My approach is more like fishing: bait the hook and put it in some
place visible, like a book or an article, and find out who nibbles at
it. The ones who do select themselves and are quite likely to hook themselves.

Bill and others,

I am actually intrigued by what you are trying to start here. I have a great deal of respect for the researchers on this forum and I enjoy reading the posts about the hard science. It helps me to go up a level. In this day of evidence based interventions (medicine) and research based startegies in education, the hard science is what will convince administration at all levels and insurance companies to consider MOL as a viable, more effective way of helping people versus traditional interventions (i.e. Skinnerian). It will be a tipping point. Those of us who are not as familiar with the science will need to become better students of it, if we are to be successful in the future.

With that said, there is a great need to teach those that are not as familiar with negative feedback loops and control mechanisms about PCT. However, we can’t start with those terms out of the gate. A child does not come into school knowing how to multiply or divide. He/She must first learn how to add and subtract. Each step builds on the next like a process until one day you can effectively do MOL with yourself or do it in less time with another person. That takes practice.

So, my question for you scientists, since you have probably spent the most time studying PCT and MOL–what kind of skills would a student have if he/she was competent in PCT and doing MOL? How would organizations function if they implemented PCT and MOL? What would they look like? What does that picture look like?

I think if we can begin to explore those questions, then we might be able to find different ways to talk to people about PCT. I don’t think you have to employ shady sales techniques. Those will never last in the long term. There is substance behind PCT and MOL–it sells itself because it works.

Imagine trying to explain control system mechanism and error to a 6 year old. Welcome to my world. It’s challenging. But, the 6 year old needs MOL more than anyone when he wants to fight with his classmate across the room. Welcome to my world again. If we can teach the 6 year old about MOL, which I believe we can, then we can get the others.

But, we need the help of the researchers and scientists. You are a vital part of the success of PCT. It’s good to see this thread moving in that direction.

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[From Bill Powers (2009.05.07.0-631 MDT)]

David Goldstein (2009.05.06.05:00 EDT) --

DG: People with this diagnosis have:
people relationship problems
problems functioning in a work situation (earning a living).
problems in everyday skills needed to take care of oneself
Of course, these functioning issues aren't unique to people diagnosed with Schizophrenia.

Psychotherapy talk seems to help with some of these more practical issues as shown in a study done in 2005, of which I am attaching a summary.
Whether MOL Psychotherapy would be as helpful, or more helpful, remains to be seen. Medication is not the whole answer or the only answer.
Medication is usually given credit for allowing people with this diagnosis to live outside of hospitals and in the community.

BP: I see correlations of the kind shown in the second paper as indicating failure to find anything of interest. The highest correlation shown is 0.66, and the others indicated as "explaining a priori hypotheses" range from 0.52 down to 0.30. If you were to try to predict the change in a clinical measure in an individual from a change in the QEEG data, or vice versa, you would get the direction wrong approximately 50% of the time. While in desperate cases this may be what you have to do, it is not much better than doing nothing. One would have to assess the risks and expense of any course of treatment based on use of these data very carefully.

The descriptions of problems above are too general to allow relating them to PCT concepts. For example, "people relationship problems" would include an inability to defeat someone at arm wrestling. To use your own approach, do these problems have to do with perceiving relationships, setting reference relationships, detecting relationship errors, or finding means of correcting relationship errors? Going beyond those categories, is the problem one of low loop gain, or too much loop gain leading to instability? Is the problem that of conflict between different relationships that are both desired, but incompatible with each other? Is the problem at the relationship level itself, or at a higher level which is selecting relationships to control? Or is it that some lower-level means of control is missing? No conventional test that I know of could answer these questions.

There is a habit in psychology (as in other disciplines) of using generalizations as if they added to our understanding; instead of saying "John hit Joe in the nose," one might say "John resorted to antisocial behavior." Unfortunately, such generalizations always include too much territory, including numerous valid examples with unrelated meanings or even valid counterexamples. Rather than improving understanding, they hinder it. And they encourage vagueness and reliance on vague statistics.

I have a modest proposal. Let us allow practitioners to use statistical data of the type described in the second paper. If they choose to do that, however, their salaries every month will consist of some base amount which they are required to bet at 5:4 odds on the accuracy of the individual predictions they make based on the data. That is, every time they are right they will gain by 80% of the bet, and every time they are wrong they will end up with nothing. If their predictions are at the chance level they will lose an average of 10% of each bet. Clearly, if they are right more than 60% of the time they will improve their income by treating more patients, but below that figure they will lose. I predict that after a quite short trial period there will be heavy lobbying against continuing this arrangement.

DG: Support for the idea that their brains (frontal lobes) are working differently in a way that relates to the kinds of variables identified by the BPRS is shown by the second attachment I am including.

BP: I would be utterly astonished to find that the brain of a person who shows the symptoms associated with a diagnosis of schizophrenia worked no differently from the brain of a normal person. However, I would be uncertain of the cause of the difference: is it a lesion or a brain chemistry defect, or is it that the programs running in the brains are different? Is it a hardware problem, or a software problem? Either, of course, would show up as differences in brain activity. And at correlation levels of 0.6 or under, you would find that a given change in QEEG measures would indicate an improvement about as often as a worsening of the condition.

DG: If we had a set of PCT tests, like pursuit or compensatory tracking, which measured how well a person controls perceptions at different levels, we might find out what aspects of perception a person with this diagnosis has trouble controlling. Short of this, we are still at the level of verbal 'blah, blah, blah.' And we have to rely on tests like BPRS, which doesn't tell us what is going on inside.

BP: I don't think we need such an indirect approach. If you want to know how well a person can add up a column of numbers, you don't give him a General Mathematical Aptitude Test, you give him a column of numbers to add. Why test for the ability to integrate a differential equation when the task calls only for addition and subtraction?

I know that it is very popular in psychology to use "instruments" for assessing problems. The term implies that we can see what we're looking for better when using the instrument than when we use the naked eye. However, if the instrument is incapable of making finer discriminations than the naked eye can make, it is not the tool of choice.

I claim that by interacting with a person we can find out what is wrong much more quickly and reliably than by giving the person any kind of psychological test so far known. In a personal interview unproductive lines of inquiry can be abandoned quickly while more productive ones are followed; in any formal test of a conventional kind, it's necessary to test for a large range of possible outcomes, only a few of which will prove to be relevant in any given case. This is one reason for the low correlations commonly seen: the irrelevant aspects of the test simply contribute to the noise level. Another problem with tests is that the items are ambiguous; they depend on interpretations, and interpretations vary from person to person. In personal interviews, there are still ambiguities, but they are easier to discover and deal with.

I wonder how many times a patient is given a test for depression because he looks depressed to the therapist, and in particular, how many times the test proves the therapist wrong. Not many, I would guess. If all that a test can do is give an aura of formality to a conclusion that is already visible to the naked eye, what does it accomplish but to waste time?

DG: Of course, talking to a person about what they are experiencing when they are behaving, including showing some symptoms visible to an observer, might provide some clues about what they are controlling, if anything, by the symptoms.

BP: Talking with a person will not just "provide some clues," it will provide directly revelevant evidence in a few minutes that a formal test will reveal only fuzzily after half an hour of pencil-pushing or electronic recording -- or not at all. How many formal tests do you know of that assess conflict? And how long does it take you in an MOL session to come across a conflict in a client? Five minutes? Thirty seconds?

Best,

Bill P.

[From Richard Kennaway (2009.05.08.2255 BST)]

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.08.1346 MDT)]
Richard Kennaway did some analyses that showed what kinds of correlations are needed to enable us to make predictions with a reasonable percentage of correctness. His results were not supportive of the idea that many published correlations are useful. And as far as I can see, that failure to support the way things are done now is the ONLY reason that his findings continue to be totally ignored, everyone going right on as if he had never said a thing. You are arguing as if the correlations cited in the papers give us useful information, when it has been incontrovertibly proven that they do not. There is a severe epidemic of denial going on here.

This would be a good time to ask Richard once again to review his findings. I say that anyone who doesn't accept them has the responsibility for showing what is wrong with them, and failing that, must accept them and their consequences. As I do.

The paper is online at http://www.cmp.uea.ac.uk/~jrk/distribution/corrinfo.pdf

From the abstract:

"For the bivariate normal distribution, we demonstrate that unless the
correlation is at least 0.99, not even the sign of a variable can be predicted
with 95% reliability in an individual case. The other prediction methods
we consider do no better. We do not expect our results to be substantially
different for other distributions or statistical analyses.

"Correlations as high as 0.99 are almost unheard of in areas where corre-
lations are routinely calculated. Where reliable prediction of one variable
from another is required, measurement of correlations is irrelevant, except
to show when it cannot be done."

For getting more information about one variable from the other, like estimating it to the nearest decile, you need data that go ping!! when you hit them, instead of lumpy porridge.

I once came across another paper looking at percentile estimation and demonstrataing similar figures, but unfortunately I lost the reference and have never been able to find it again. It considered the question, if a school wants to admit people in the top X% of the population in ability, and actually admits students based on an entrance exam correlating imperfectly with ability, who are they actually admitting and excluding? I think it dealt specifically with GREs, and it included a lot of numerically computed results for various values of the correlation. It refrained from drawing any particular conclusion, just saying, these are the figures, make up your mind what you want to do about them.

···

--
Richard Kennaway, jrk@cmp.uea.ac.uk, http://www.cmp.uea.ac.uk/~jrk/
School of Computing Sciences,
University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, U.K.

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.08.1551 MDT)]

Richard Kennaway (2009.05.08.2255 BST) --

The paper is online at http://www.cmp.uea.ac.uk/~jrk/distribution/corrinfo.pdf

Thanks, Richard. Frustrating, isn't it? "But if that's true, all that work by all those people is worthless. That would be a catastrophe: therefore what you say must not be true."

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bill Powers (2009.05.03.21028 MDT)]

David Goldstein (2009.05.03.10:31 EDT) --

There is a rating scale, called the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), which contains 16 rating scales that a rater uses to assess someone. Each rating scale has the following levels of severity: not present (0), very mild(1), mild(2), moderate(3), moderately severe(4), severe(5), extremely severe(6).

The 16 scales are: somatic concern, anxiety, emotional withdrawal, conceptual disorganization, guilt feelings, tension, mannerisms and posturing, grandiosity, depressive mood, hostility, suspiciousness, hallucinatory behavior, motor retardation, uncooperativeness, blunted affect, (excitement and disorientation).

Two functions are obtained which describe the individual differences:

This is very interesting, but mostly from the standpoint of showing how very different a PCT approach would be from conventional methods.

You knew I was going to say something like that, didn't you?

Now, how would you go about finding out what the patients' problem is?

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bill Powers (20089.05.03.1039 MDT)]

Rick Marken (2009.05.03.0900)

···

Bruce Abbott (2009.05.03.0945 EDT)–
The behavioral manifestations that lead to a diagnosis of
schizophrenia are diverse. These may include…

RM: Sounds like a description of a perfectly normal right wing Republican
(except for the catatonia, unfortunately;-).

BP: Still after the Don Rickles Award? Naah, not even close. Maybe the
Nya-Nya runner-up, but not in the adult division.

Which reminds me of my favorite put-down, said by a girl to a flasher:
“That looks just like a penis, only smaller.” The goal of a
put-down, of course, is to make someone feel bad or foolish.

I recall that William Glasser
(of all people) gave what I thought was a nice (though somewhat
vague) PCT explanation of what’s now called ADHD (hyperactivity then).
His idea was that these kids were trying to create some
“stimulation” for themselves. What an outside observer sees as
hyperactivity is just a side effect of the kids’ efforts to produce this
stimulation for themselves.

BP: That’s more like a PCT approach, though I’d go on to find out what
the controlled perception actually was, if I could. The idea, as you say,
is to look at the unusual behavior not as a deviation from some norm that
we have to set right, but as part of a process of controlling, or trying
unsuccessfully to control, something of importance to the behaving
person.

RM: The evidence for this is
that ridilin (a stimulant)

I think that’s “Ritalin.”

is what quiets these kids
down; the drug now provides the “stimulation” that the kids had
had to provide for themselves by flailing about.

BP: So how would you find out if that explanation is the right one? And
how would it explain the cases in which the stimulant is given, but the
kids don’t calm down?

RM: The same kind of explanation
would probably apply to schizophrenics; what we see as “odd
behavior” is just a side effect of the person’s efforts to produce
some kind of perception for themselves. Of course, figuring out what
those perceptions might be is the tough part, for me
anyway.

BP: I don’t think we have to “figure out” what those
perceptions might be. All we have to do is ask, or at least
interact.

I really don’t think it’s necessary to analyze a person’s behavior to try
to see how it is similar to the behavior of other people with similar
symptoms. That’s the conventional “diagnose-and-treat”
approach, which is doctor-centered, not patient-centered. You can learn a
little by thinking in categories of similarity, but being similar to
other people is not the problem that has to be fixed. PCT thinking puts
us on a completely different track, doesn’t it?

Best,

Bill P.