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A Control Theory View of Human Behavior & Performance



Shown above is the GAP-ACT Model, also known as The Target Model.  It is based on Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) as developed and articulated by the late William T. Powers (1926-2013).  It is worth mentioning that Powers himself approved of the GAP-ACT Model.  A succinct summary of PCT follows.

PCT asserts that people are 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; we compare our perceptions of the current state of those variables with our goal state or reference condition for those variables; and, if unacceptable gaps exist, we behave in ways that serve to close them.  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. 

The GAP-ACT Model is one of several models I've devised to illustrate how individual performance is controlled consistent with PCT.  The most recent is the Performance Control Model, which can be found in the Knowledge Workers' Tool Room.  See also the paper below titled "Performance Control Theory."

On the Performer side of the model shown above, we have Goals, Actions and Perceptions (GAP).  On the Situation side, we again have Actions, along with other Conditions that affect the Targets we seek to control, and the Targets themselves (ACT).

The GAP-ACT Model provides useful insights into human behavior and performance as well as ideas regarding ways to improve performance in the workplace.  It also provides ideas and insights regarding performance problems and their solutions.  The GAP-ACT Model has been proven in practice for more than 30 years.

Fred Nickols is available to make presentations and conduct training related to The GAP-ACT Model.  He also provides consulting and coaching assistance in applying the model.  If you have any questions, you can use the Questions link at the bottom of this page to submit them to Fred.

The links below take you to papers about The GAP-ACT Model (a.k.a. The Target Model) and about PCT.

NOTE:  All the articles listed below are in PDF format

Links to Other PCT-Related Sites

International Association for Perceptual Control Theory (IAPCT)

Living Control Systems Publishing

Martin Taylor's PCT Site

Mind Readings: Rick Marken's PCT Site

Rupert Young's One-Pager on PCT

Tim Carey's "Method of Levels" (MOL) Web Site

University of Manchester PCT Site (U.K.)

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This page last updated on December 20, 2017