Awareness as inference in a higher-order state space [article]

Stephen M. Fleming
2019 arXiv   pre-print
Humans have the ability to report the contents of their subjective experience - we can say to each other, "I am aware of X". The decision processes that support these reports about mental contents remain poorly understood. In this article I propose a computational framework that characterises awareness reports as metacognitive decisions (inference) about a generative model of perceptual content. This account is motivated from the perspective of how flexible hierarchical state spaces are built
more » ... ring learning and decision-making. Internal states supporting awareness reports, unlike those covarying with perceptual contents, are simple and abstract, varying along a one-dimensional continuum from absent to present. A critical feature of this architecture is that it is both higher-order and asymmetric: a vast number of perceptual states is nested under "present", but a much smaller number of possible states nested under "absent". Via simulations I show that this asymmetry provides a natural account of observations of "global ignition" in brain imaging studies of awareness reports.
arXiv:1906.00728v3 fatcat:gm7i7uhq4zbyveg63ucf5btawm