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Expecting Ourselves: Embodied Prediction and the Construction of Conscious Experience

Project description

Unravelling the mystery of conscious experience

How does matter invoke sensory experiences? Why are we conscious of ourselves as individuals with goals, plans and dreams? The ERC-funded XSPECT project endeavours to shed light on the nature, scope and mechanisms of conscious experience. Three separate areas of research will be explored concurrently. The first will investigate the relations between prediction, motor action and experience. The second will focus on the role of interoceptive prediction in the construction of experience. Lastly, the third will examine ways in which more reflective forms of conscious experience are enhanced by a diverse array of socially mediated higher-level self-predictions.


This project (short name, XSPECT) aims to harness the emerging science of the predictive brain to deliver new insights into the nature, scope, mechanisms and (most importantly) the very possibility of conscious experience. The project thus explores and extends the vision of the brain as an inner engine continuously striving to predict the incoming sensory barrage. The key innovation is to consider this increasingly popular vision in the special context of embodied agents able to predict many of their own evolving states and responses – agents able to ‘expect themselves’. These crucial self-expectations span the interoceptive (targeting the internal sensory flows signaling our own physiological states, such as hunger, arousal, itch, and muscular and visceral sensations) and the exteroceptive (targeting the world, and our own behaviors as they might unfold over multiple scales of space and time). XSPECT explores the idea that such interacting states of complex, layered self-prediction hold the key to understanding much that is puzzling about conscious experience.

The project is divided into three simultaneously active sub-projects. The first sub-project concerns relations between prediction, motor action, and experience. The second sub-project targets the role of interoceptive prediction in the construction of experience. The third sub-project considers ways in which more reflective forms of conscious experience (involving agency, selfhood, and the introspection of own experiential states) are further enriched by a spiraling array of socially mediated higher-level self-predictions.

XSPECT will combine integrative philosophical argument, collaborative experimentation, and leading edge interdisciplinary research and discussion, leveraging two very successful but under-communicating research programs (‘embodied cognition’ and ‘the predictive brain’) to offer new perspectives on the puzzle of conscious experience.



Net EU contribution
€ 707 169,50
Sussex house falmer
BN1 9RH Brighton
United Kingdom

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South East (England) Surrey, East and West Sussex Brighton and Hove
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (3)