Bibliographical data for

Title of Edited Collection

PPP - Philosophy and Predictive Processing

Publication Date

March 2017

Publication Place

Frankfurt am Main, Germany




Endogenous attention is crucial and beneficial for learning, selecting, and supervising actions. However, deliberately attending to action execution usually comes at the cost of decreased smoothness and slower performance, often severely impairs normal functioning, and in the worst case may result in pathological behavior and experience as in schizophrenic hyperreflexivity. These ambiguous modulatory effects of self-directed attention have been examined on phenomenological, computational, and implementational levels of description—a recent formalization within an active inference framework aims to accommodate all of these aspects. Here, I examine the active inference account of motor control as enabled by attentional modulation based on expected precisions of prediction errors in a brain’s hierarchical generative model of the environment. The implications of active inference fit well with a range of empirical results, they resonate well with ideomotor accounts of motor control, and they also tentatively reflect many insights from phenomenological analysis of the “lived body”. Thereby a particular strength of active inference is its hierarchical account of motor control in terms of adaptive behavior driven by the imperative to maintain the organism’s states within unsurprising boundaries. Phenomena ranging from the reflex arc to intentional, goal-directed action and the experience of oneself as an embodied agent are are thus proposed to rely on the same mechanisms operating universally throughout the brain’s hierarchical generative model. However, while the explanation of movement production and sensory attenuation in terms of low-level attentional modulation is quite elegant on the active inference view, there are some questions left open by its extension to higher levels of action control and the accompanying phenomenology of for example volition, effort, or agency. I suggest that conceptual guidance from recent accounts of phenomenal self- and world-modeling may help develop active inference into an interdisciplinary framework for investigating embodied agentive self-experience.