Exploring the Perceptual Control Hierarchy

Activity: Talk or presentation typesTalk or presentation (not at a conference)Academic


As part of his work on Perceptual Control Theory (PCT), William T. Powers proposes 11 levels of perceptual control in a hierarchical architecture. Control systems at each level are connected by input and output signals to levels above and below. From the bottom level upwards, every step in the hierarchy is a way to combine many signals at a certain level into a single signal at the level above.
Each level in the hierarchy can be considered a way of controlling perceptions, and each level up is a way to combine these perceptions into a new type of perception. For example, Level 8 perceptions take the form of sequences, ordered in time or space, while level 9 combines multiple sequences in programs, where choices can be made about which sequence to follow. Aspects of our experience, such as gaining control, loss of control, awareness and reorganization take different forms depending on the perceptual levels involved.

In this presentation, I’ll outline the structure of the hierarchy and discuss what we currently know about each level in the hierarchy. I’ll draw from examples in clinical work and daily life. The goal is to give the audience a renewed introduction into the hierarchical control of perceptions in order to advance discussions and research on this subject.

Powers, W. T. (1973, 2005). Behavior: the control of perception. Benchmark Publications.
Powers, W. T. (1998). Making sense of behavior. Benchmark Publications
Period9 Oct 2020
Event titleInternational Association for Perceptual Control Theory Annual Conference
Event typeConference
Conference number30
LocationNew ZealandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational