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Predictive processing has begun to offer new insights into the nature of conscious experience—but the link is not straightforward. A wide variety of systems may be described as predictive machines, raising the question: what differentiates those for which it makes sense to talk about conscious experience? One possible answer lies in the involvement of a higher-order form of prediction error, termed expected free energy. In this paper we explore under what conditions the minimization of this new quantity might underpin conscious experience. Our suggestion is that the minimisation of Expected Free Energy is not in itself sufficient for the occurrence of conscious experience. Instead, it is relevant only insofar as it helps deliver what Ward et al. have previously described as a sense of our own poise over an action space. Perceptual experience, we will argue, is nothing other than the process that puts current actions in contact with goals and intentions, enabling some creatures to know the space of options that their current situation makes available. This proposal fits with recent work suggesting a deep link between conscious contents and contents computed at an ‘intermediate’ level of processing, apt for controlling action.
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DOI 10.1007/s13164-022-00644-y
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