Living Control Systems Publishing; dedicated to Perceptual Control Theory, a new conception of how all living things function

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By Warren Mansell

Warren Mansell is a
Senior Lecturer and
Clinical Psychologist at the University of Manchester, UK.


Review: People as Living Things

Customer Review posted at

5.0 out of 5 starsComprehensive, accessible and insightful introduction to Perceptual Control Theory, the science of control in living systems, February 12, 2008

This book is a tour de force on psychology as a discipline. Well done to Dag Forsell for making this book more widely avaialable! Philip Runkel was Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Education at the University of Oregon. When he came across William T. Powers (1973) book "Behavior: The Control of Perception", his view of psychology and how it should be studied, researched and practiced experienced a quantum shift. In this book, Powers describes a theory (Perceptual Control Theory; PCT), which was developed from earlier work on control engineering and considers human behaviour as the control of perception. The mechanism is specified in great detail but it basically relies on organised (and reoorganising) hierarchies of negative feedback loops. It forms the heritage of several contemporary self-regulation approaches within psychology, but arguably, the original theory is unparalleled in its explanatory power.

There a quite a few books on Power's PCT, but this one I think is unique. It takes the reader very steadily through the principles of PCT using diagrams and everyday examples. The size of the book (500+ B4 pages) is also a strength because PCT can be hard to assimilate and understand within the context of mainstream psychology - Phil Runkel considers and critiques psychological concepts in a measured, perceptive and constructive manner. The book also incorporates some of the most up-to-date implications and applications of PCT in enormous breadth - covering research methodology, social psychology, neuroscience, memory and imagination, personality, language and communication, psychotherapy (Method of Levels) and education. It provides a great reference to many other sources - papers, books and some of the most recent online discussions and contributions - that help to illustrate the capacity of PCT to be applied to an enormous range of areas of human behaviour. The language of the book is clear, accessible and welcoming. I would recommend it for anyone starting out with an interest in PCT, or control or self-regulation theories more generally, from the more inquisitive and probing final year undergraduate students through to senior academics and professionals with an applied interest in this field. It may change your take on human behaviour forever!


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