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Behavior: The Control of Percetption

Bill Powers' seminal work
Aldine 1973, Benchmark 2005


William T. (Bill Powers)

William T. (Bill) Powers
Photo by Mary Powers 2004

Perceptual Control Theory (PCT)

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. 

Concieved of by William Treval Powers in 1952 and developed by him across more than 60 years with tireless brilliance, supported by followers loosely organized as the Control Systems Group .

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.

This website features links that connect you with an abundance of resources for further study.


© 2015. Dag Forssell, webmaster