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Pic: William T. Powers

William T. Powers

In Memoriam: William T. Powers

William T. Powers, the engineer/psychologist who developed Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) passed away on May 24, 2013 at the age of 86.  PCT is a revolutionary and exciting theory of human behavior, one that invalidates much of what currently passes as psychological research and existing theories of human behavior.  Essentially, PCT views people as purposeful, living control systems, whose behavior shapes its consequences instead of the other way around.  PCT is a feedback-governed view of human behavior.  It holds that we target certain variables for control and we compare our perceptions of the current state of those variables with our goal state or reference condition for those variables.  If unacceptable gaps exist, we behave in ways that serve to close those gaps.  Thus it is that our behavior serves to control our perceptions.  There are, however, other actors and factors at work that influence the same variables we are trying to control.  Ordinarily these disturbances as they are known in PCT are compensated for and pose no problem.  On occasion they can prove overwhelming.  Our control is far from perfect.  PCT abounds with insights, implications and new directions for researchers, those who simply want to understand human behavior and those who would manage human performance in the workplace.
 
Powers will be laid to rest next to his wife, Mary, in a cemetery overlooking the city of Durango, CO.  His work will continue, pursued by those who came to know Powers and PCT.  His theory will someday receive the recognition it deserves and so will he.
 
By Fred Nickols

 


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