Talk at the University of Sheffield

Interoceptive inference, emotion, and the embodied self

Psychology Lecture Theatre, 12 noon, Friday 6th March

Anil Sethanil-seth-consciousness-006
Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science
School of Engineering and Informatics,
University of Sussex,
Brighton BN1 9QJ, UK,

‘Interoception’ is the sense of the internal physiological state of the body – the sense of the body ‘from within’. There is increasing interest in exploring how interoceptive and exteroceptive processes interact in specifying conscious states, especially those having to do with conscious selfhood and the experience of owning and identifying with a particular body. In this talk I will examine these interactions through the lens of ‘predictive processing’, which sees perception as a process of probabilistic inference on the causes of sensory signals. I will introduce a model of “interoceptive inference” which applies the framework of predictive processing to interoception. According to this model, subjective feeling states (emotions) arise from actively inferred generative (predictive) models of the causes of interoceptive signals. The model also predicts that embodied selfhood is grounded in active inference of those signals “most likely to be me” across interoceptive and exteroceptive domains. I will then some recent experimental evidence illustrating this view, based on examining the role of interoceptive feedback in psychophysical paradigms. This will include a novel version of the ‘rubber hand illusion’ incorporating visual feedback of heartbeat signals via augmented reality. The results show that multisensory integration across interoceptive and exteroceptive domains influences the experience of body ownership, and they bring new relevance to some old ideas from cybernetics and predictive control.

Seth, A.K. (2015). The cybernetic Bayesian brain: from interoceptive inference to sensorimotor contingencies. In Open MIND, eds. T. Metzinger & J. Windt. Frankfurt a.M., GER: MIND group (see

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