Bayes and the first person: consciousness of thoughts, inner speech and probabilistic inference
- 530 Downloads
On a widely held view, episodes of inner speech provide at least one way in which we become conscious of our thoughts. However, it can be argued, on the one hand, that consciousness of thoughts in virtue of inner speech presupposes (unconscious) interpretation of the simulated speech. On the other hand, the need for such self-interpretation (even if unconscious) seems to clash with distinctive first-personal characteristics that we would normally ascribe to consciousness of one’s own thoughts: a special reliability; a lack of conscious ambiguity and incomprehensibility; and a sense of causal agency. I try to resolve this puzzle by proposing an account for the requisite self-interpretation of inner speech in terms of Bayesian probabilistic inference. Drawing on “perceptual loop” accounts of speech control, I argue that such interpretive probabilistic inferences are used for the control of inner speech, and that as a consequence of this function, they are biased toward the correct interpretations. I conclude by showing how this model can explain the first-personal characteristics of consciousness of one’s own thoughts. In the case of the sense of causal agency, the resulting explanation yields novel accounts for “audible thoughts” and thought insertion.
KeywordsInner speech Consciousness of thoughts Bayes Perceptual loop Audible thoughts Thought insertion
I have presented versions of this paper at King’s College, London, at the Humboldt University Berlin (Colloquium Tobias Rosefeldt), at the University of Granada (Workshop “Inner Speech: Theories and Models”, July 2015), and at the Institut Jean Nicod, Paris (Paris Consciousness and Self-Consciousness Group). I am grateful to the audiences at these occasions for very helpful discussions. My special thanks for their criticisms and suggestions go to Élisabeth Pacherie, Uriah Kriegel, Mark Textor, Richard Moore, Édouard Machery, Peter Langland-Hassan, Erasmus Mayr, Ole Koksvik, and the anonymous referees for this journal.
Funding Research for this article during a research stay at the Institut Jean Nicod, Paris (2015/6) has been made possible by a scholarship in the Postdoc Programme of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
- Bentin, S., et al. (1995). Semantic processing and memory for attended and unattended words in dichotic listening: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 21(1), 54–67.Google Scholar
- Bleuler, E. (1911). Dementia Praecox oder Gruppe der Schizophrenien. Leipzig/Wien: Franz Deuticke.Google Scholar
- Byrne, A. (2011). Knowing that I am thinking. In A. Hatzimoysis (Ed.), Self-knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Carruthers, P. (2006). Conscious experience vs. conscious thought. In U. Kriegel & K. Williford (Eds.), Self-representational approaches to consciousness. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Cassam, Q. (2011). Knowing what you believe. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 111(1), 1–23.Google Scholar
- Cassam, Q. (2014). Self-knowledge for humans. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Dell, G. S., & Repka, R. J. (1992). Errors in inner speech. In B. J. Baars (Ed.), Experimental slips and human error. Exploring the architecture of volition. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Doya, K., et al. (Ed.). (2007). Bayesian brain. Probabilistic approaches to neural coding. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Fodor, J. (1983). The modularity of mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Frith, C. (1992). The cognitive neuropsychology of schizophrenia. Hove/Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Furui, S. (2010). History and development of speech recognition. In F. Chen & C. Jokinen (Eds.), Speech technology. Theory and applications. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Grice, P. (1989). Studies in the way of words. Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Hartsuiker, R. J. (2014). Monitoring and control of the production system. In M. Goldrick, et al. (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of language production. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Hohwy, J. (2014). The predictive mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Jackendoff, R. (1987). Consciousness and the computational mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Jorba, M., & Vicente, A. (2014). Cognitive phenomenology, access to contents, and inner speech. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 21(9–10), 74–99.Google Scholar
- Jurafsky, D. (2002). Probabilistic modeling in psycholinguistics: Linguistic comprehension and production. In R. Bod, et al. (Eds.), Probabilistic linguistics. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Levelt, W. J. M. (1989). Speaking: From intention to articulation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Martínez-Manrique, F., & Vicente, A. (2010). ‘What the..!’ The role of inner speech in conscious thought. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 17(9–10), 141–167.Google Scholar
- Martínez-Manrique, F., & Vicente, A. (2015). The activity view of inner speech. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00232.
- Mele, A. (2009). Mental action: A case study. In L. O’Brien & M. Soteriou (Eds.), Mental actions. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Moran, R. (2001). Authority and estrangement: An essay on self-knowledge. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Naranayan, S., & Jurafsky, D. (1998). Bayesian models of human sentence processing. In Proceedings of the 20th annual meeting of the cognitive science society. Madison, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Pickering, M., & Garrod, S. (2013). An integrated theory of language production and comprehension. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(4), 1–64.Google Scholar
- Prinz, J. (2012). The conscious brain. How attention engenders experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Rao, R., Olshausen, B., & Lewicki, M. (Eds.). (2002). Probabilistic models of the brain: Perception and neural function. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance. Communication and cognition (2nd ed.). Oxford/Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (2002). Relevance theory. UCL working papers in linguistics, Vol. 14, pp. 249–287.Google Scholar
- Titchener, E. B. (1915). A beginner’s psychology. New York: The Macmillan Company.Google Scholar
- Vasic, N., & Wijnen, F. (2005). Stuttering as a monitoring deficit. In R. J. Hartsuiker, et al. (Eds.), Phonological encoding and monitoring in normal and pathological speech. Hove: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
- Yildiz, I., et al. (2013). From birdsong to human speech recognition: Bayesian inference on a hierarchy of nonlinear dynamical systems. PLoS Computational Biology. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003219.
- Zarges, M. (2011). Monitoring via the perceptual loop: Is the inner loop based on perception or production? Bochumer Linguistische Arbeitsberichte, 5, 1–24.Google Scholar