The Many Faces of Attention: why precision optimization is not attention

In Dina Mendonça, José Manuel Robalo Curado & Steven Gouveia (eds.), The Philosophy and Science of Predictive Processing. London, UK: pp. 119-139 (2020)
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The predictive coding (PC) theory of attention identifies attention with the optimization of the precision weighting of prediction error. Here we provide some challenges for this identification. On the one hand, the precision weighting of prediction error is too broad a phenomenon to be identified with attention because such weighting plays a central role in multimodal integration. Cases of crossmodal illusions such as the rubber hand illusion and the McGurk effect involve the differential precision weighting of prediction error, yet attention does not shift as one would predict. On the other hand, the precision weighting of prediction error is too narrow a phenomenon to be identified with attention, because it cannot accommodate the full range of attentional phenomena. We review criticisms that PC cannot account for volitional attention and affect-biased attention, and we propose that it may not be able to account for feature-based and intellectual attention.

Author Profiles

Madeleine Ransom
University of British Columbia, Okanagan
Sina Fazelpour
Northeastern University


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