A nice surprise?

Predictive processing and the active pursuit of novelty

Andy Clark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Recent work in cognitive and computational neuroscience depicts human brains as devices that minimize prediction error signals: signals that encode the difference between actual and expected sensory stimulations. This raises a series of puzzles whose common theme concerns a potential misfit between this bedrock informationtheoretic vision and familiar facts about the attractions of the unexpected. We humans often seem to actively seek out surprising events, deliberately harvesting novel and exciting streams of sensory stimulation. Conversely, we often experience some wellexpected sensations as unpleasant and to-be-avoided. In this paper, I explore several core and variant forms of this puzzle, using them to display multiple interacting elements that together deliver a satisfying solution. That solution requires us to go beyond the discussion of simple information-theoretic imperatives (such as 'minimize long-term prediction error') and to recognize the essential role of species-specific prestructuring, epistemic foraging, and cultural practices in shaping the restless, curious, novelty-seeking human mind.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-534
Number of pages14
JournalPhenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • Novelty
  • Prediction
  • Prediction error
  • Surprise

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