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A tale of two densities: active inference is enactive inference

Ramstead, MJD; Kirchhoff, MD; Friston, KJ; (2019) A tale of two densities: active inference is enactive inference. Adaptive Behavior 10.1177/1059712319862774. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

The aim of this article is to clarify how best to interpret some of the central constructs that underwrite the free-energy principle (FEP) – and its corollary, active inference – in theoretical neuroscience and biology: namely, the role that generative models and variational densities play in this theory. We argue that these constructs have been systematically misrepresented in the literature, because of the conflation between the FEP and active inference, on the one hand, and distinct (albeit closely related) Bayesian formulations, centred on the brain – variously known as predictive processing, predictive coding or the prediction error minimisation framework. More specifically, we examine two contrasting interpretations of these models: a structural representationalist interpretation and an enactive interpretation. We argue that the structural representationalist interpretation of generative and recognition models does not do justice to the role that these constructs play in active inference under the FEP. We propose an enactive interpretation of active inference – what might be called enactive inference. In active inference under the FEP, the generative and recognition models are best cast as realising inference and control – the self-organising, belief-guided selection of action policies – and do not have the properties ascribed by structural representationalists.

Type: Article
Title: A tale of two densities: active inference is enactive inference
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/1059712319862774
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/1059712319862774
Language: English
Additional information: © Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed.
Keywords: active inference, free-energy principle, representationalism, enactivism, structural representations
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10080065
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