Making Sense of Behavior by Bill Powers LO23893 -Book Review

From: Fred Nickols (
Date: 02/04/00

Replying to LO23875 --

Replying to Gavin in LO23875 --

>Bill Powers is correct and incorrect at the same time, this is a very
>interesting thing how we respond or act. If we take the automous view
>point we all are responsive for our actions however if you take the
>complex adaptive systems (CAS) view then our actions are often controled
>by the systems and what ever we do or say cannot change the outcomes-see
>Senge on this very issue (Beer game). Only if we understand the full
>picture which we do not. There is no general systems theory GST as yet.
>see Checkland.

I think I get your point, namely, that the outcomes we seek are often
beyond our control (and that is indeed amply illustrated by the beer game
-- which I've played by the way, in a session led by none other than John
Sterman). However, I don't think that point negates what Powers is
saying, namely, that we act to keep our perceptions aligned with our
intentions. Powers offers nothing in the way of guaranteed success.
Moreover, the fact that an outcome, such as profit, might be affected more
by the structure of the larger system in which we are all playing does not
refute Powers' theory. I haven't yet engaged Bill Powers on the points
that tie to what many people have observed about the fact that the effects
of our actions (and the effects of others' actions) are often far removed
in space and time from the actions themselves. This delay factor, by the
way, is a cornerstone issue in system dynamics, is it not? Anyway, I
don't see how the points you make above make Powers incorrect. Can you
say some more about that?

> From my point of view I have worked for almost 10 years on a motivational
>model, that will be published hopefully in the near future, plus over 700
>tests on people. My point of view is that most of our motivations are deep
>seated-unconscious so we are not aware often of why we say or do things
>let alone being affected by the system we are born or move into.

I would agree with your point about motivations and I doubt that Powers
would argue with them either. Indeed, if my own grasp of what goes on in
discussions of PCT (Perceptual Control Theory or, as I prefer to call it,
"Bill's Theory") is correct, the role of awareness is unclear if not

>Analysis of Dr Harold Shipman's motivations would be of interest. Power
>over life and death, grandiosity, invincibility, plus all the fears that
>go with this, I wonder.

I'm not familiar with Shipman's work. No comment.


Fred Nickols The Distance Consulting Company "Assistance at A Distance" (609) 490-0095

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