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Generalised free energy and active inference

Parr, T; Friston, KJ; (2019) Generalised free energy and active inference. Biological Cybernetics 10.1007/s00422-019-00805-w. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Active inference is an approach to understanding behaviour that rests upon the idea that the brain uses an internal generative model to predict incoming sensory data. The ft between this model and data may be improved in two ways. The brain could optimise probabilistic beliefs about the variables in the generative model (i.e. perceptual inference). Alternatively, by acting on the world, it could change the sensory data, such that they are more consistent with the model. This implies a common objective function (variational free energy) for action and perception that scores the ft between an internal model and the world. We compare two free energy functionals for active inference in the framework of Markov decision processes. One of these is a functional of beliefs (i.e. probability distributions) about states and policies, but a function of observations, while the second is a functional of beliefs about all three. In the former (expected free energy), prior beliefs about outcomes are not part of the generative model (because they are absorbed into the prior over policies). Conversely, in the second (generalised free energy), priors over outcomes become an explicit component of the generative model. When using the free energy function, which is blind to future observations, we equip the generative model with a prior over policies that ensure preferred (i.e. priors over) outcomes are realised. In other words, if we expect to encounter a particular kind of outcome, this lends plausibility to those policies for which this outcome is a consequence. In addition, this formulation ensures that selected policies minimise uncertainty about future outcomes by minimising the free energy expected in the future. When using the free energy functional—that efectively treats future observations as hidden states—we show that policies are inferred or selected that realise prior preferences by minimising the free energy of future expectations. Interestingly, the form of posterior beliefs about policies (and associated belief updating) turns out to be identical under both formulations, but the quantities used to compute them are not.

Type: Article
Title: Generalised free energy and active inference
Location: Germany
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s00422-019-00805-w
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00422-019-00805-w
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Keywords: Bayesian, Active inference, Free energy, Data selection, Epistemic value, Intrinsic motivation
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/10082773
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