15th July, Warren Mansell on "Perceptual Control Theory"

Perceptual Control Theory as a Framework for Computer Modelling Across the Social Sciences
Dr Warren Mansell, Reader in Psychology, University of Manchester

Perceptual Control Theory is a psychological framework developed from control system engineering during the 1950s and 60s (Powers et al., 1960; Powers, 1973). The theory is supported by a range of empirical and theoretical papers (see www.pctweb.org) and yet its central premise - 'Behaviour is the control of perception' - remains dominated by the same assumptions of linear 'Stimulus-Response' or 'Input-Compute-Output' psychology that primed its development. In this talk I will describe examples of computer modelling using PCT across a wide range of domains (e.g. robotics, economics, sociology, speech and language). I will then describe and demonstrate the PCT simulator I have developed to model actively learning multi-layered control systems. One hypothesis we are testing is that psychological distress (i.e. mental health problems) represents chronic loss of control due to internal goal conflict, and that this is relieved by promoting changes in higher level, or deeper, systems. This would explain why psychotherapies that access 'deeper meanings', 'longer term goals' and 'broader values' are effective. To date, we have demonstrated that learning (termed 'reorganisation' in PCT) of higher level systems allows a more enduring optimisation of control than learning within the lower order, conflicted, systems. Related research will be discussed, as well as a discussion of how PCT could be utilised to improve existing computer models of psychological systems.

Key Reference
Mansell, W. (2011). Control of Perception Should be Operationalised as a Fundamental Property of the Nervous System. Topics in Cognitive Science, 3, 257-261.


4pm Neils Bohr Common room, Schuster Building.

All Welcome!