WHY?

<[Bill Leach 950625.14:50 U.S. Eastern Time Zone]

[From Bruce Abbott (950624.1030 EST)]

... performing the Test in PCT. However, my purpose here is not to
prove that your behavior is controlled by some particular source of
reinforcement, but to show that reinforcement theory can offer a
reasonable, internally consistent explanation for that behavior.

In searching out these "sources of reinforcement," reinforcement
theorists are at least taking the position that there are causes of the
behavior that can be identified. In your analysis based on PCT, you
seem to be saying that the organism does what it does because it "wants
to," without suggesting why.

These two paragraphs are probably worthy of a doctoral dissertation!

"Reasonable" is certainly up to question but most debates in that area
ultimately are not too useful.

"Internally consistent" is a bit more "meaty". That EAB is "internally
consistent" in the sort of discussions that we have been having is rather
a bit far fetched. To assert that past "reinforcers" can explain all
deviations from expected results is about as scientific as astrology.
Such a claim makes EAB hypothesis at best until the data is in
demonstrating the truth of the claim.

Of course HPCT is not significantly better off in that regard. Both lend
themselves to "logical thought experiments". I am not sure that either
can really be demonstrated in an irrefutable fashion to be superior.

The WHY

As far as proof is concerned, I don't think that either hypothesis is in
a position to provide any.

PCT's only justifiable claim is to reason and observational experience.
I believe that most individual's have had at least some experience
personally with something that I choose to call a "religious experience".
I use that terms only because the "sensations" and "attitude changes"
described by people claiming to have had a "religious conversion
experience" seem to "match" rather well. My own belief is that this
same "feelings/attitude changes" can occur with regard to many
experiences besides religious ones.

People can and do make a "fundamental shift" in their entire manner of
relating to their environment. How does EAB explain a
"Mother Teresa"(sp?) or better still a "Joan of Arc"? What external
"thing" can have the power to cause one the give up one's own life?

For that matter, what possible characteristic of something in the
environment can "make" an organism do anything unless the organism itself
wants or does not want some amount of the external thing? Is EAB
claiming that the external thing creates the degree of want itself?

Also, you say:

Reinforcement theory, also, would "simply accept the goals we find to be in
effect" given our ignorance as to the conditions that brought them about.

which itself is laudable enough sounding but what does that mean to an
EABer? To "simply accept the goals" would seem to imply acceptance of
"purposeful behaviour", that is the idea that the organism does what it
does for its' own reasons. That would seem to move the "power" of the
reinforcer back inside again.

By "accepting" and then ignoring the goals, is not one then ignoring what
one knows through their own personal experience to (at least
occassionally) have an overwhelming impact on what one does and why?

... Why invoke new processes if you can assume that the same processes
are at work internally as externally? ...

But can you assume? Is not this yet another one of those "things" that
is obviously false based upon one's own experience? If my goal is to
drink a glass of milk, there are quite literally thousands of different
ways in which that goal might be satisfied including the many different
actions that would occur should there not be any milk in the house or
what exists is spoiled, etc.

The milk is not a "reinforcer". If anything is, it would be my desire
but my behaviour with regard to the "reinforcer" STOPS after I drink the
milk!

And reference levels change because.....? I intend to mail a package at
the post office this afternoon. On arrival, I discover that the post
office is closed. So I give up my intention, and intend to go home
instead. Nothing outside me has caused that? Hmmmm....

You intended to have a packaged mailed. You decided to take it to the
post office yourself (new reference set to implement original reference -
which itself has at least a couple of higher goals).

Did you choose to throw the package away? Did you decide not to mail it
at all? Post office closed is a disturbance. This particular
disturbance in combination with other perceptions (such as the likely
consequences of breaking in) is perceived as not directly controllable.

Our perceived reality interfers with "our plans" all the time. That we
are control systems is the reason that we normally accomplish our goals
anyway.

Operants are simply emitted; they require no stimulus, not since 1938.
Call them operants rather than responses if you like, it's all the same
to me.

HOW are they emitted? Not why, but how? How does an organism "emit"
just the exact behaviour needed for a particular situation?

... To get you to do as I wish, I must attempt to (a) eliminate these
competing sources of reinforcement, and (b) identify a source of
reinforcement that will work in your case.

This is the "everybody has their price" theory that Frankl smashed flat
in the fifties. Though far from common it is possible that Bill P. would
even starve to death rather than "emit" the "proper" behaviour.

-bill