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The Interdisciplinary Handbook of Perceptual Control Theory - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780128189481, 9780128189498

The Interdisciplinary Handbook of Perceptual Control Theory

1st Edition

Living Control Systems IV

Editor: Warren Mansell
eBook ISBN: 9780128189498
Paperback ISBN: 9780128189481
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 16th May 2020
Page Count: 680
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The Interdisciplinary Handbook of Perceptual Control Theory brings together the latest research, theory, and applications from W. T. Powers’ Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) that proposes that the behavior of a living organism lies in the control of perceived aspects of both itself and its environment. Sections cover theory, the application of PCT to a broad range of disciplines, why perceptual control is fundamental to understanding human nature, a new way to do research on brain processes and behavior, how the role of natural selection in behavior can be demystified, how engineers can emulate human purposeful behavior in robots, and much more.

Each chapter includes an author biography to set the context of their work within the development of PCT.

Key Features

  • Presents case studies that show how PCT can be applied in different disciplines
  • Illustrates the Test for the Controlled Variable (TCV) and the construction of functional models as fruitful alternatives to mainstream experimental design when studying behavior
  • Shows how theory illuminates structure and functions in brain anatomy
  • Compares and contrasts PCT with other contemporary, interdisciplinary theories


Researchers and students in psychology, neuroscience, engineering, sociology, ethology, computer science, evolutionary biology, linguistics, robotics, and artificial intelligence

Table of Contents

Part I

Why do we need perceptual control theory?

1. The world according to PCT

2. Understanding purposeful systems: the application

of control theory in engineering and psychology

3. The crisis in neuroscience

4. When causation does not imply correlation: robust

violations of the faithfulness axiom

Part II

Models of brain and behavior

5. Unraveling the dynamics of dyadic interactions:

perceptual control in animal contests

6. How the brain gets a roaring campfire: Structuring

for Perceptual Results

7. How the brain gets a roaring campfire: input and

output functions

8. The phylogeny, ontogeny, causation and function of

regression periods explained by reorganizations of the

hierarchy of perceptual control systems

Part III

Collective control and communication

9. Social structure and control: perceptual control theory

and the science of sociology

10. Perceptual control in cooperative interaction

11. Language and thought as control of perception

Part IV


12. Perceptions of control theory in

industrial-organizational psychology: disturbances

and counter-disturbances

13. Method of Levels Therapy

14. Robotics in the real world: the perceptual control

theory approach

15. PCT and beyond: toward a computational framework

for ‘intelligent’ communicative systems

Part V


16. Ten vital elements of perceptual control theory,

tracing the pathway from implicit influence to

scientific advance


No. of pages:
© Academic Press 2020
16th May 2020
Academic Press
eBook ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:

About the Editor

Warren Mansell

Dr. Mansell has written over sixty interdisciplinary publications on perceptual control theory, has convened three international conferences on PCT, and hosts a website that has received over 35,000 views since its inception in 2009. His work on PCT has appeared on UK national television, in science museums, and online newspaper and magazine articles. He has authored and edited various books, including: Coping with Fears and Phobias (2007), A Transdiagnostic Approach to CBT using Method of Levels Therapy (2012), Principles-Based Counselling and Psychotherapy (2015), Oxford Guide to Metaphors in CBT (2010), and The Bluffer’s Guide to Psychology (2006).

Affiliations and Expertise

Reader in Clinical Psychology, School of Health Sciences, Division of Psychology and Mental Health, Faculty of Biology Medicine and Health, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK


"This is a marvelous book. It serves as a tribute to Bill Powers, as the father of PCT (now grandfather, as he himself says), and as a comprehensive overview of the history, theory and application of PCT within the social and natural sciences. The subject range is vast, from neurodynamics to organizational psychology, from animal contests to psychotherapy, with each chapter beautifully judged in terms of coverage and detail. The Interdisciplinary Handbook of Perceptual Control Theory thus makes the strongest possible case for PCT as both a unifying theory within psychology, and a bridge to other disciplines. Everyone involved in its production should be congratulated, and everyone else should read it." --Louise Barrett, FRSC, Professor of Psychology, Canada Research Chair in Cognition, Evolution and Behaviour, Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

"More than a century after John Dewey's insight that the response is not merely to the stimulus but it is into it, William Powers' community continues to challenge the "central dogma" of behavioral neuroscience: stimulus, then processing and, finally, response. While defining behavior as output is a form of covert anthropomorphism, conceiving behavior as control of perception better respects the nature of life and mind." --Alex Gomez-Marin,  Principal Investigator, Behaviour of Organisms Laboratory Cellular and Systems Neurobiology Unit Instituto de Neurociencias CSIC-UMH, Alicante, Spain

"Perceptual control theory is a fascinating, complex, and profoundly fertile understanding of human being that combines scientific rigour with a deeply humanistic ethos. This interdisciplinary handbook is a much needed resource which pulls together contemporary thinking and research in the field. Ranging from robotics to neuroscience to psychotherapy, the book will be of great value to those who want to deepen their understanding of this unique approach and apply its insight to the fields of psychological and social practices." --Mick Cooper, Professor of Counselling Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Roehampton, London, UK

"This powerful volume is the amplifying extension of Bill Powers’ legacy that the academic world has long needed. While other, more popular psychological theories have foundered in the much discussed "replication crisis", this collection of dogged researchers, and others like them, have quietly and persistently been piling up increasing evidence of the profound explanatory power nestled within the elegant simplicity of PCT. Skillfully curated by editor, Mansell, the rigour of their revolutionary work across a wide spectrum of fields within the biological and social sciences stands as compelling evidence that PCT is no longer simply an idea whose "time has come", but is, rather, a powerful field of application that has well and truly "arrived"." --Tom Scholte, Professor, Department of Theatre and Film, The University of British Columbia

"Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) offers a radically different way of thinking about the world and our place within it, with broad-ranging implications from engineering to psychology to neuroscience to sociology. For the first time, in this fantastic edited volume, the depth and diversity of multi-disciplinary theory and application in PCT have been brought together in one place. The result is a comprehensive introduction to PCT for those new to this approach, as well as an encyclopaedic reference work for those who have already begun to grapple with PCT but want to understand its reach and potential in other domains. This collection is a tremendous contribution to the literature and should be required reading for all those interested in control theory, cybernetics, predictive processing and how the mind and brain navigate a constantly fluctuating and complex world." --Tim Dalgleish, Scientific Programme Leader: The Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, UK

"This is an exciting book on a simple but very powerful theoretical idea: Behavior is the control of perception. The book witnesses the enormous potential of this theory to bridge various, currently scattered, scientific fields, such as psychology, neuroscience, and robotics. In fact, while the theory was formulated decades ago, it has left nothing of its potential to initiate a scientific revolution, if taken seriously. As such the book is also a wonderful piece about the ups and downs of ideas in the history of science." --Wilfried Kunde, Professor of Psychology, University of Wuerzburg

"This is a superb book, providing a grand tour of the vibrant field of perceptual control theory as applied to the analysis of behaviour. It presents a radically different way of thinking about the nature of complex behaviour and of what the brain is organised to do, to the ones behavioural scientists are typically used to. By presenting a wide range of applications and exemplars, the book illustrates the exciting potential of this well-defined, mathematically tractable and highly biologically plausible framework. Constantly thought-provoking, thoroughly recommended." --Pasco Fearon, Chair in Developmental Psychopathology, University College London, London, UK

"This book offers a superb overview of the rich contribution that perceptual control theory (PCT) is making to the contemporary understanding of behavioural actions. The application of PCT to psychotherapy in Method of Levels therapy and its broader application to organisational dynamics will be of particular interest to mental health practitioners." -- Phil McEvoy, Managing Director, Six Degrees Social Enterprise CIC 

Ratings and Reviews