DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2022.0429 ISSN: 0962-8436

Being alive to the world: an artist's perspective on predictive processing

Robert Pepperell
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology

I consider predictive processing (PP) from the perspective of an artist who also conducts scientific research into art and perception. This paper presents artworks I have made and statements from other artists that exemplify some of PP's core principles. But it also raises questions about the extent to which current applications of PP theory provide a comprehensive account of art experience. Prediction error minimization, a key mechanism of PP, has been proposed as a cause of positive aesthetic affect because artworks offer opportunities for reward through disambiguation and learning. However, there are many cases where prediction errors proliferate in art experiences in a way that enhances aesthetic affect. Here I suggest the inability of our perceptual systems to minimize prediction errors when beholding certain artworks can evoke heightened states of fascination and exhilaration. Moreover, powerful artworks provide opportunities for maximizing prediction errors, within certain bounds, by evoking states of paradox, contradiction and illogicality. I conclude that beholding such artworks can intensify our sense of being by making us more alive to the world.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Art, aesthetics and predictive processing: theoretical and empirical perspectives’.

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