Hi, Bruce !
I see Bruce that nobody else (but Martin) is answering your questions. I'll
try to help you as I can, although I know that's not what you have expected.
I know also that I was to long as I saw you are always trying to be very
short. I hope it will not be disturbing to you.
Please except my apology for the use of English language. Maybe some things
will be less understandable, because I'm not expressing it in my native
I'm very glad, that you are "on board", because you are showing some
disharmony in PCT and that's good, although it's maybe useless to show it,
as Bill and Richard accept "mistakes" of PCT in a very strange way.
I think that all those who "were silenced" through the time on CSGnet,
trying to help PCT to recognize it's "holes", recognized also that it's
useless job to try to help PCT to "improve" or "to get better". But I think
that all "silenced" members do "their own PCT" although they are not present
I think you are close enough to the "main point" of PCT and my opinion is,
that you understand well what PCT is trying to be, not what it is. So I
perfectly agree with Martin's opinion that PCT is not yet an equilibrium
model, but I think it's tending to be.
Bruce G :
As I see it, PCT is an equilibrium model of human behavior for which the
external world is largely a disturbance. Does this interpretation agree with
Boris H :
As far I understand the problem, I think that maybe you didn't define well
"equilibrium" in your question and that's maybe the reason why you didn't
get the answer you wanted.
For ex. Ashby put also other terms like "steady state", stabilityďż˝By his
opinion all this terms underline the same THEME.
I think that PCT wants to be "equilibrial theory" (in Ashby's sense), but it
didn't get to that point yet. By my opinion there's quite some "miles" to
do, before it comes to the point of your rather good description. I'll try
to put some arguments to support my (our) opinion.
Bill P (in his book Sense of behavior, page 48,49,50,51) :
At the focus of this process of learning are the basic needs that have to be
met. We need a theoretical link between those basic needs and the process of
learning. Control theory suggests a link that is really a control system of
The object of control by this basic system is to keep certain physiological
and biochemical variables near particular values.
What we need, then, is a set of reference conditions defined by inherited
features of the system.
We need a set of sensors that can report the actual state of each critical
variable , and we need some comparison process that will create an error
signals when sensed value of critical variable differs from its reference
These wrongness signals are called in PCT, "intrinsic error" signals,
because they refer to basic physical conditions that are essential to
survival and are inside, intrinsic to the bodyďż˝All that matters now is that
such a set so signals must exist, and that some or many of these error
signals are not at zero, the body is equiped to do something that we'll
restore them to zero. When the intrinsic error signal are restored to zero,
all the associated critical variables are once again near the built-in
reference states.I took these idea, incidentally from the cyberneticist W.
Ross Ashby because I thought he was right though I couldn't prove it. All
that remains is to turn the set if intrinsic error signals into learning.
And here we run into wall, not because we can't think of ways to do this,
but because there are many ways and we have no data that will tell us which
of these ways the human system actually uses.
We have now a very basic control system concerned with keeping some set of
intrinsic variables near built-in reference conditions. As usual, this
control system employs perception and comparison with reference conditions
to generate an error signal that drives action. The action is left somewhat
indefinite; it is the process of reorganization that alters the connection
in the nervous system.
The most important aspect of reorganizing system is that it is concerned
only with maintaining intrinsic error signals as close to zero as possible.
Boris H :
I think this is essential to understand Bill's theory of "adapting" behavior
and the main role of nervous system with "trials and errors" or
reorganizations in neurons pathways and regulating the intensity and
coordination of effectors, while seeking equilibrium, steady-state,
reference state, reference conditions, internal standards (McClelland) or
whatever we call the state of relative physiological balance in organisms.
So I think you were right in describing the PCT as "equilibrium model".
Maybe you could say : model of goal oriented behavior to physiological
equilibrium. If the equilibrium is reference condition of the controled
quantity, then I think we talk about goal-directed behavior.
Bill P (B:CP, 2005, page ) : Goal directed behavior
The most important explanatory feature is the reference signal because that
is what accounts for the reference condition of the controlled quantity. The
reference conditions is exactly what is meant by a goal.
Ashby (Design for a brain) :
Goal-seeking (page 54) : Every stable system has a property if displaced
from a state of equilibrium and released, the subsequent movement is so
matched to the initial displacement that the system is brought back to the
state of equilibrium.
The suggestion that an animal's behaviour is "adaptive" if the animal
"responds correctly to stimulus" must be rejected at once.
I propose the definition that a form of behaviour is adaptive if it
maintains the essential variables within the physiological limits.
The ultrastable system discused so far, through developing a variety of
fields, have sought a constant goal. The Homeostat sought central positions
and rat sought a zero grill-potential (page 131).
If the critical states "distribution in the main variables" phase-space is
altered by any means whatever, the ultrastable system will be altered in the
goal it seeks (page 132).
Boris H :
By my opinion is pretty clear what's the main purpose of above mentioned
citations. It's somehow obvious to me, that both theories (Ashby's and
Bill's) are homeostatical, equilibrial, seeking for stability after being
disturbed, with closed (circled) feed-back. I think that in Bill's theory it
must be added : control of perception whenever we are relating to the
environmental disturbances. And of course control hierarchy mustn't be
Through the whole book "Design for a brain" example of kitten moving or
resting by the fire is presented in different Chapters. It's obviously that
kitten in it's "adapted behavior" is "protecting" essential variables from
being displaced to far from the state of equilibrium. And that's what, by my
opinion, every "Living Control system" is doing all the time. That's maybe
the answer to your question : "why" control systems are behaving. Probably
with main goal to reduce the "genetic intrinsic error" to zero.
Boris H :
I also use this opportunity to express my viewpoint about PCT and CSGnet. I
think that despite it's "holes" is not such a "send-box" as you described
it. PCT is in fact a very good theory of control nature of living beings.
For me it's the best theory today. Principles of PCT are seen practically on
the whole world. For example : Glasser's psychoterapy called "Choice Theory"
or "Reality therapy", Carver's and Sheier's Self-regulation Theory,
Resolution Conflict Management in Europe, and there were some examples in
Dr. Phil's Show, etc. That's what I know of PCT influences. Maybe other
members know more.
Boris H :
I promoted PCT in Slovenia (corrected version with Bruce Abbott's Synopsis)
and it's slowly getting into science sphere. And my experiences so far shows
that momentally is no theory stronger in the field of Social Sciences, but
PCT, although is not perfect yet. The interacionist theory come close, but
it's lost when it comes to the question "why" interactants produce behavior
in each other.
Bruce G :
ďż˝.what benefits does adopting this equilibrium model offer to the wider
world of social psychology and behavioral economics?
Boris H :
If I understand you right, you are seeking for the impact of PCT on other
sciences, and that answer I can't give to you. But I can supply you with
some hints with "copies" of PCT that were used in many books. Specially
Bill's diagram is used very frequently.
1. Charles S. Carver; Michael F. Scheier; On the self regulation of behavior
(1998). Cambridge University Press (page 11, page 22).
2. The self in Social Psychology (1999) : Edited by Roy F. Baumeister (page
3. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (1998), Volume 21, Leonard
Berkowitz (page 307).
4. The self-regulation of health and illness behaviour (2003), Edited by
Linda Diane Cameron,Howard Leventhal (page 18).
5. Handbook of Psychology: Personality and social psychology (2003), Irving
B. Weiner (page 186).
6. Handbook of self-regulation: research, theory, and applications (2004).
Edited by Roy F. Baumeister,Kathleen D. Vohs (page 14).
Pages in titles refer to use of Bill's diagram. And there is usualy some
explanation about control hierarchy.
Most of these books you can get as previews. Please consider that Carver and
Scheier were Bill's "students" in Control Theory, as William Glasser was :
Stations of the Mind (1981).
Bruce G :
Take any study carried out by "conventional" social scientists or behavioral
economists. How would the study have been improved if the authors understood
PCT? What would they have learned that they did not learn using the flawed
methods of conventional psychology?
Boris H :
I don't know what's really the impact of PCT on Social Sciences (maybe
McClelland could answer that), but I can try to suggest some direct
experiences with use of PCT in some Social Sciences and research work.
I see PCT as really important contribution to Social Work and Education or
in Socio-pedagogical Work in schools. I also find it's strong influence on
The difference between classical approach and PCT is very clear specialy in
the way subjects communicate. If you understand communication as classical
fluctuation of information or as behavioristic input-output
(action-reaction) you can make too much damage to people relations and to
society, specially in schools.
Generally I see the most important contribution of PCT in the way people
communicate and how they understand human nature in communication and other
relations. So I assume here that understanding the human nature imply to
some extend the way people communicate or relate to each other.
I see the problem for example in. religions (war between Muslims and
Christians). It seems it will never stop. Wrong communication, wrong
understanding of human nature. People are really acting as Living Control
Systems, all the time in conflict, with mass-thoughts of destructing each other.
I can difficultly speak of Economy, as I'm not economist. But as I see the
problem, it's about wrong understanding of human nature specially rich
managers, who by my opinion crashed American Economic system. I don't know
if that's exactly the reason. I make my conclusions upon informations I got
on TV. I see that you have New Economic Laws, which I think are the
consequence of new understanding the human nature which is closer to PCT.
Now after experiencing the true human nature, Laws changed to suit human
nature of managers who are now more restricted and should experiance their
own consequences. Thta's how I understood "New Deal".
I beleive that with understanding PCT, The New Economic Laws could be
accepted maybe earlier and there maybe wouldn't be such a World catastrophe.
I think if we leave managers do what they want, they'll first maximally
control their equilibrium (God makes beard to himself first). And as far as
I understand, all American people will have to pay for managers gluttony. I
know I'm simplifying the problem, but that's how I see it through the "eyes"
I think that all social events can be reduced to, and explained with human
nature and their relations. And there's always a problem how you understand
it. I think that the way we experience our human nature and understand it,
is the way we behave.
I don't know if I helped you much. But I did try my best. I hope you
understood my language