(School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK)
Perceiving as Predicting?
Sala di Rappresentanza del Rettorato
Università degli Studi di Milano
via Festa del Perdono - 7
According to an emerging vision in computational and cognitive neuroscience, perception (rich, full-blooded, world-presenting perception of the kind we humans enjoy) depends heavily on prediction. To perceive, if this schema is correct, is to meet incoming sensory information with a set of matching ‘top-down’ predictions, where these amount to the brain’s best guesses about the shape of the present sensory signal. Perception occurs when (after a flurry of processing) the top-down guessing matches, and hence ‘explains away’, the sensory signal. That same story suggests, intriguingly, that perception, understanding and imagination - which we might intuitively consider to be three distinct chunks of our mental machinery - are inextricably tied together, emerging as simultaneous results of that single underlying strategy. In the talk, I first introduce this general explanatory schema, and then discuss these (and other) implications. I end by asking what all this suggests concerning the fundamental nature of our perceptual contact with the world.