dissabte, 12 de novembre de 2011

The Human Mind (IV) - Perceptual control

Skinner (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner)  was one of the major intellectual forces behind the behaviorist movement in psychology—the idea that biological systems always respond a certain way to certain stimuli. Control the stimuli, and you can control the behavior. “Condition” the organism with rewards and punishments, and the organism will learn exactly how to behave.

Over the decades, behaviorism has fallen out of vogue in psychology—research has made it clear that there’s far more to behavior than the carrot and the stick. Unfortunately, that hasn’t extended to business practice—in corporations and business school classrooms around the world, the search continues for the magic incentive that will make people do exactly what businesses want.

In reality, human behavior is much more like a thermostat. A thermostat is a very simple system: all it consists of is a sensor, a set point, and a switch. The sensor measures the temperature of the surrounding environment. When the temperature is within a given range, the thermostat does nothing. When the temperature is below the set point, the switch turns the heater on. Once the temperature is above the set point, the switch turns the heater off. This relationship is called Perceptual Control—the thermostat controls the temperature of the room by comparing the perceived temperature against the set point, then taking an action if and only if that perception is “out of control.” Once the action brings the perception under control, the system stops acting until the set point is violated once again.

Living organisms are essentially very complex Perceptual Control systems: we act in ways to keep our perceptions of the world within acceptable boundaries. We don’t put on a coat because cold weather forces us to—we put on a coat because we feel cold and we don’t want to feel cold. If the light entering our eyes is too bright, we find shade, pull down the blinds on the windows, or put on sunglasses—the action controls the perception, and the action we ultimately take depends on the Environment we find ourselves in at the time.

The Environment dictates which actions are possible to bring the perception under control. Control is not planning—it’s adjusting to changes in the Environment as they actually happen. The human in the storm doesn’t have the capability to predetermine what actions they’ll take to stay on their feet—as the Environment changes, their actions will change in response, depending on the resources and options available at the moment.

Perceptual Control explains why the same stimulus often produces different responses.

Perceptual Control represents a fundamental shift in understanding why people do the things they do. Once you understand that people act to control their perceptions, you’ll be better equipped to influence how they act.

The Personal MBA, Master the Art of Business - Josh Kaufman

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