Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Designed To Be Fooled

Taleb FBR

Bravery, courage, self-confrontation, acceptance-of-limitations? WTF! BD00 doesn’t possess any of those attributes. But when the ink dries on this blog post, he’ll go back to foolishly thinking he does (what about you?). Mr. Taleb is right – mother nature is a tricky be-otch.

Should, Or Could?

There’s quite a difference between thinking and behaving as if “the world should be better aligned with my wishes!” and “the world could be better aligned with my wishes“. If your psychic disposition is toward the former, you’ll most likely be walking around frustrated and bitchy most of the time. If it’s toward the latter, you’ll most likely be more accepting and graceful.

BD00 seems to think that he’s been experiencing a slow shift over the years from thinking in terms of “should!” to thinking in terms of “could“. But of course, it may be just another one of those self-delusions that are packed wall to wall inside of his crippled mind.

Should Could

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The Three Principles

February 24, 2013 3 comments

William James, who is regarded as the father of modern psychology, once wrote that the field of psychology had no true principles. He said if such principles were ever realized on a large scale, it would make the importance of every human advancement since fire pale in comparison.


As always, it’s our choice to decide what’s true for ourselves, but the three principles behind psychological life are: Mind, Consciousness, and Thought (MCAT). From formlessness, Mind produces a formed Thought and Consciousness brings this thought form to life via our senses. It’s as simple (simplistic?) as: Mind->Thought->Consciousness.

Three Principles

As long as we are alive, the MCAT trinity is in continuous operation. Whether we’re aware that this irreducible, equation-less, metaphysical system is operating silently in the background of our psyche or not, that’s how we experience psychological life moment to moment.

Of the three principles, “thought” is what we are intimately familiar with. Unlike formless “mind” and formless consciousness“, we can directly “see and feel” our thought forms in real-time. Thus, from the instant we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep at night, we act on them as they emerge during the day.


Note that the universal MCAT trio is impersonal. It doesn’t say anything… nada… zilch… about quality of “thought“. That’s where the “personal” you and I come in.

As soon as we become aware of an impersonally created thought, we instantaneously attach a level of personal “I-ness” and judgmental quality to the thought. Thus, hypothetically given the same thought, you can experience its associated feeling as joy and I can experience it as sorrow. Ergo, quality of thought is personal.

Personal Thought

Ignored, Denied, Or Pushed Aside

November 7, 2012 6 comments

Fresh from Margaret Wheatley‘s “So Far from Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World“, I present you with these four vexing questions:

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions and your expectations were met, then you’re incredibly lucky because:

They’re based on an assumption of rational human behavior— that leaders are interested in what works— and that has not proven true. Time and again, innovators and their highly successful projects are ignored, denied or pushed aside, even in the best of times. In this dark era, this is even more true. – Margaret Wheatley

Not that I’m an innovator, but these questions hit me hard because it took decades of disappointment and bewilderment for me to realize that Ms. Wheatley is right. But you know what? Once I became truly aware that “it is the way it is“, I felt liberated. Now I do the work for the work itself. An intimate, joyful communication between the creator and the created.

Bankrupt Models

August 17, 2012 1 comment

In his paper, “The Dispute Over Control Theory“, Bill Powers tries to clarify how Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) differs from the two main causal approaches to psychology: stimulus-response and command-response. In order to gain a deeper understanding of PCT, I’m gonna try to reproduce Bill’s argument in this post with my own words and pictures.

The figure below represents a PCT unit of behavioral organization, the Feedback Control System (FCS). An FCS is a closed loop with not one independent input (e.g. stimulus or command), but two. One input, the reference signal, is sourced from the output function of a higher level control unit(s). The second input, an amalgam of environmental disturbances, “invades” the loop from outside the organism.  Both inputs act on the closed loop as a whole and the purpose of the FCS is to continuously act on the environment (via muscular exertion) to maintain the perceptual signal as close to the reference signal as possible. As the reference changes, the behavior changes. As the disturbance changes, the behavior changes. Since action is behavior, the FCS exhibits behavior to control perception; behavior is the control of perception.

The figure below depicts models of the stimulus-response and command-response views in terms of the PCT FCS. The foremost feature to notice is that there is no loop in either model – it’s broken. The second major difference is that neither model has two inputs.

In the Stimulus-Response model, the linear, causal path of action is: Stimulus (a.k.a Disturbance) ->Organism->Behavior. In the Command-Response model, the linear, causal path of action is: Command (a.k.a Reference)->Organism->Behavior. Hence, the models can be reduced to these simple (and bankrupt) renderings of a dumb-ass organism totally under the control of “something in the external environment“:

So, you may ask: “How could our best and brightest minds in psychology and sociology gotten it so wrong for so long; and why don’t they embrace PCT to learn how living systems really tic?” It’s because they erroneously applied Newton’s linear cause-effect approach for the physics of inanimate objects to living beings and they’ve thoroughly crystallized their UCBs into cement bunkers.

When you push a rock, there is no internal resistance from the rock and Newton’s laws kick into action. When you push a human being, you’ll encounter internal resistance and Newton’s laws don’t apply – control theory applies.

Compounding the difficulty has been a surprising tendency for scientists who are normally careful to know what they are talking about to leap to intuitive conclusions about the properties and capabilities of control systems, without first having become personally acquainted with the existing state of theart. If any criticism is warranted, it is for promulgating statements with an authoritative air without having verified personally that they are justified. – Bill Powers

D’oh! BD00 takes major offense at Bill’s last sentence.

From The Ground Up

August 11, 2012 4 comments

In developing their feedback control system-based models (see below) for exploring the nature of human behavior, both Bill Powers and Rudy Starkermann really did start from the ground up.

By “the ground up“, I mean that their theories started with the basic building blocks of the brain and nervous system. The diagram below shows examples of Powers’s and Starkermann’s underlying neuronal models.

Unlike classical Skinnerian “behaviorists“, whose theories are founded on more abstract, “black box”, empirical findings, BD00 believes that Bill and Rudy’s theories are much more closer to the “truth” (whatever the hell that may be) behind what motivates human behavior. What do you think?

The proper study of mankind is man – Alexander Pope

Cross-Disciplinary Pariahs

August 9, 2012 6 comments

The figure below shows a simplified version of the classic engineering Feedback Control System (FCS). There are two significant features that distinguish an FCS from a typical engineering system. First, the input is not a raw signal to be manipulated in order to produce a derived output of added informational value. It is a “desiredsetpoint (or goal, or reference) to be “achieved” by the system’s design.

The second feature is the feedback loop which taps off the output signal and provides real-time evidence to the comparator of how well the output is converging to (or diverging from) the desired setpoint. For a given application, the system’s innards are designed such that the output tracks its input with hi fidelity – even in the presence of “disturbances” (e.g. noise) that infiltrate the system.

In purely technical systems (as opposed to socio-technical systems), the FCS system output would typically be connected to an “actuator” device like a motor,  a switch, a valve,  a furnace, etc that affects an important measurable quantity in the external environment. The desired setpoints for these type of systems would be motor speed, switch position, valve position, and temperature, respectively. The mathematics of how engineering FCSs behave been known since the 1930s.

In defiance of mainstream psychology and sociology pedagogy, Bill Powers and Rudy Starkermann spent much of their careers applying control theory concepts to their own innovative theories of human behavior. Their heretical, cross-disciplinary approaches to psychology and sociology have kept them oppressed and out of the mainstream much like Deming, Ackoff, Argyris in management “science”.

The figure below shows (big simplifications of) the Powers and Starkermann models side by side. Note the similarities between them and also between them and the classic engineering FCS.

  • Engineering FCS: Setpoint/Comparator/Feedback Loop
  • Powers: Reference/Comparator/Feedback Loop
  • Starkermann: Goal/Summing Node/Feedback Loop

The big (and it’s huge) difference between the Starkermann/Powers models and the engineering FCS model  is that Starkermann’s goal and Powers’ reference signal originate from within the system whereas the dumb-ass engineering FCS must “be told” what the desired setpoint is by something outside of itself (a human or another mechanistic system designed by a human). In the Starkermann/Powers FCS models of human behavior, “being told” is processed as a disturbance.

If you delve deeper into the “obscure” work of Starkermann and Powers, your world view of the behavior of individuals and groups of individuals just may change – for the better or the worse.

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