A Control Theory Approach to Experimental Psychology
New View Publications 2014
Listeners familiar with our recent podcasts exploring the remarkable legacy of William T. Powers revolutionary Perceptual Control Theory of human behaviour, including its contribution to cognitive behavioural therapy through the development of the Method of Levels approach, may be wondering about the empirical evidence for such a sweeping repudiation of classical behaviourism. Prepare to have those questions answered with this episode’s return visit of Richard S. Marken; this time to discuss his 2014 book, Doing Research on Purpose: A Control Theory Approach to Experimental Psychology (New View Publications, 2014). In a remarkable collection of papers, Marken traces, not only the steadily accruing empirical validation of PCT, but also, the evolution of a new methodology for experimental psychology itself given the need to assess the impact of phenomena that exist only inside the minds of individual organisms; namely, the preferred reference values for sensory experience. Emerging from this methodological renovation is the bedrock of PCT investigation; the Test for the Controlled Variable, a robust experimental procedure opening a window on the dynamics of varied forms of behaviour including the science of fly-ball catching in baseball players and Frisbee catching by “man’s best friend”. In his book and in our conversation, Marken offers us a glimpse of experimental psychology, and the world at large, through “control theory glasses” and muses upon the possible social and ethical nature of a world that accepted PCT as the ground of our behaviour.