Attributing awareness to others: The attention schema theory and its relationship to behavioral prediction
The attention schema theory provides a single coherent framework for understanding three seemingly unrelated phenomena. The first is our ability to control our own attention through predictive modeling. The second is a fundamental part of social cognition, or theory of mind – our ability to reconstruct the attention of others, and to use that model of attention to help make behavioral predictions about others. The third is our claim to have a subjective consciousness – not merely information inside us, but something else in addition that is non-physical – and to believe that others have the same property. In the attention schema theory, all three phenomena stem from the same source. The brain constructs a useful internal model of attention. This article summarizes the theory and discusses one aspect of it in greater detail: how an attention schema may be useful for predicting the behavior of others. The article outlines a hypothetical, artificial system that can make time-varying behavioral predictions about other people, and concludes that attributing some form of awareness to others is a useful computational part of the prediction engine.
Journal of Consciousness Studies