Searching for controlled (rather than controlling) variables

“The publication of John B. Watson’s (1913) Psychology as the Behaviorist ViausIt signaled the beginning of an era of psychological research dominated by the search for controlling variables, the variables that control behavior. Behavioral psychologists started looking for these variables in the organism’s environment. Cognitive psychologists are now looking for these variables in the organism’s mind (or brain). But in both cases the search is for controlling variables, the variables that cause organisms to behave as they do. This preoccupation with controlling variables may be one reason psychologists have paid so little attention to a theory of behavior that focuses on the variables that are controlled by behavior. The theory is called perceptual control theory (PCT), and its basic as- sumption is that behavior is organized around the control of perceptual variables (Powers, 1973a).”

Richard Marken

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