2022: Omnichannel presentation

Perception and self from the inside out

When we open our eyes in the morning, it seems as though the world just pours itself into our minds through the transparent windows of the senses. But how things seem is not how they are. I will outline a new take on an old view of perception according to which the contents of our experience come as much from the ‘inside out’ as from the ‘outside in’, In this view, every perceptual moment is a creative act of interpretation, a ‘controlled hallucination’ in which the brain’s top-down predictions are reined in by sensory data: we don’t just passively perceive our worlds, we actively generate them. What’s more, this applies to the ‘self’ too.

The self is not an essence-of-you that does the perceiving – the self itself is a perception, or better, a collection of perceptions. Drawing on my new book Being You, I will unpack the science and philosophy behind this powerful way of thinking about perception and self, and draw out some of its implications for how we live today.