Predictive processing and perception: What does imagining have to do with it?

Consciousness and Cognition 106:103419 (2022)
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Abstract

Predictive processing (PP) accounts of perception are unique not merely in that they postulate a unity between perception and imagination. Rather, they are unique in claiming that perception should be conceptualised in terms of imagination and that the two involve an identity of neural implementation. This paper argues against this postulated unity, on both conceptual and empirical grounds. Conceptually, the manner in which PP theorists link perception and imagination belies an impoverished account of imagery as cloistered from the external world in its intentionality, akin to a virtual reality, as well as endogenously generated. Yet this ignores a whole class of imagery whose intentionality is directed on the actual environment—projected mental imagery—and also ignores the fact that imagery may be triggered crossmodally in a bottom-up, stimulus-driven way. Empirically, claiming that imagery and perception share neural circuitry ignores relevant clinical results in this area. These evidence substantial perception/imagery neural dissociations, most notably in the case of aphantasia. Taken together, the arguments here suggest that PP theorists should substantially temper, if not outright abandon, their claim to a perception/imagination unity.

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Dan Cavedon-Taylor
Open University (UK)

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