Affect-biased attention and predictive processing

Cognition 203 (C):104370 (2020)
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In this paper we argue that predictive processing (PP) theory cannot account for the phenomenon of affect-biased attention prioritized attention to stimuli that are affectively salient because of their associations with reward or punishment. Specifically, the PP hypothesis that selective attention can be analyzed in terms of the optimization of precision expectations cannot accommodate affect-biased attention; affectively salient stimuli can capture our attention even when precision expectations are low. We review the prospects of three recent attempts to accommodate affect with tools internal to PP theory: Miller and Clark’s (2018) embodied inference; Seth’s (2013) interoceptive inference; and Joffily and Coricelli’s (2013) rate of change of free energy. In each case we argue that the account does not resolve the challenge from affect-biased attention. For this reason, we conclude that prediction error minimization is not sufficient to explain all mental phenomena, contrary to the claim that the PP framework provides a unified theory of all mental phenomena or the brain ‘s cognitive functioning. Nevertheless, we suggest that empirical investigation of the interaction between affective salience and precision expectations should prove helpful in understanding the limits of PP theory, and may provide new directions for the application of a Bayesian perspective to perception.



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Author Profiles

Madeleine Ransom
University of British Columbia, Okanagan
Sina Fazelpour
Northeastern University
Evan Thompson
University of British Columbia
1 more