Control of Perception Should be Operationalized as a Fundamental Property of the Nervous System


should be sent to Dr. Warren Mansell, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, School of Psychological Sciences, Coupland I, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. E-mail:


This commentary proposes that “cognitive control” is neither componential nor emergent, but a fundamental feature of behavior. The term “control” requires an operational definition. This is best provided by the negative feedback loop that utilizes behavior to control perception; it does not control behavior per se. In order to model complex cognitive control, Perceptual Control Theory proposes that loops are organized into a dissociable hierarchical network (PCT; Powers, Clark, & McFarland, 1960; Powers, 1973a, 2008). In this way, behavior is dynamically adaptive to environmental disturbances, rather than being formed by, or superimposed upon, learned associations between stimulus and response.