What's inside your head once you've figured out what your head's inside of

Jelle Bruineberg*, Erik Rietveld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)
41 Downloads (Pure)


In this article, we investigate the foundations for a Gibsonian neuroscience. There is an increasingly influential current in neuroscience based on pragmatic and selectionist principles, which we think can contribute to ecological psychology. Starting from ecological psychology, we identify three basic constraints any Gibsonian neuroscience needs to adhere to: nonreconstructive perception, vicarious functioning, and selectionist self-organization. We discuss two previous attempts to integrate affordances with neuroscience: Reed’s ecological rendering of Edelman’s selectionism as well as Dreyfus’ phenomenological interpretation of Freeman’s neurodynamics. Reed and Dreyfus face the problem of how to account for “value.” We then show how the free-energy principle, an increasingly dominant framework in theoretical neuroscience, is rooted in both Freeman’s neurodynamics and Edelman’s selectionism. The free-energy principle accounts for value in terms of selective anticipation. The selection pressures at work on the agent shape its selective sensitivity to the relevant affordances in the environment. By being responsive to the relevant affordances in the environment, an agent comes to have grip on its interactions with the environment and can thrive in its ecological niche.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-217
Number of pages20
JournalEcological Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. 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.


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