Perceptual Control Theory

In this post, I review a single excerpt from page 1 of the above book. The entire book is freely available online. On the basis of page 1, William T Powers’ ‘Perceptual Control Theory’ (PCT) cannot be correct. Dag Forssell explains the provenance of this piece as follows:

I have annotated the text to indicate my initial thoughts:

’10 Minutes’ from Forssell, 2016, p. 1.

I cannot believe William Powers could have been serious in writing these words. If so, he was a seriously deluded man. Note the following, manifestly untrue assertions:

It (PCT) explains why one organism cannot control another without physical violence. There is a long list of counter-examples: honey bees, murmuration, bird song, classroom teaching, coaching, managing, leadership, being a guru, altruism, pacifism, non-violent protest, laws, the justice system, social cohesion, sports such as cricket, tennis and baseball, international treaties, the European Union, etc.

It explains why people deprived of any minor part of their ability to control soon become disfunctional (sic), lose interest in life, pine away and die. Steven Hawking, people with sensory impairments, pw motor impairments, people living in torture or concentration camps, the vast majority of people living without enough food, water or money, patients with cancer or other fatal illnesses, patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the list goes on and on.

It explains why it is so hard for groups of people to work together even on something they all agree is important. Another very long list of counter-examples: scientific discoveries, e.g. the Double Helix, the Curies – radiation, the war effort in WWI and WWII, space travel, the First Person on the Moon, July 20, 1969, the International Space Station, the production of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in less than one year 2020-1, etc, etc.

What planet was William T Powers living on?

I had read the first couple of chapters of one Powers’ books on PCT a few decades ago and found it unconvincing.

Recently I received a recommendation from a proponent of the approach and had been looking forward to taking another look at PCT. Sadly, my initial reaction to page 1 is disappointment. Under normal circumstances, I would put this book down and never pick it up again. However I find the ‘guru’ status of Powers among his supporters somewhat intriguing. I note that many are engineers.

It is said that one must never judge a book by its cover. Never judge a book by what is says on page 1 either? Or what?

I will soldier on to see if Powers begins to make sense. Any graphologists out there might gain insights by looking at his handwriting.

Published by David F Marks

Author, editor, psychologist.

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