Objective Self-awareness and Predictive Coding: A Useful Theoretical Framework for Understanding the Role of Consciousness in Violent Behavior Logan Trujillo , Richard H. Morley (Psychology, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX ) C4
Although the functional role of conscious mental states in humans remains unclear, one possibility is that consciousness facilitates the mental prediction of sensory-motor, cognitive, and affective states in order to increase the accuracy and precision of behavior [Gray, J. (2004). Creeping up on the hard problem. Oxford: Oxford University Press]. This presentation will discuss the potential usefulness of this conceptualization of consciousness for understanding the neurocognitive processes involved in violent behavior (a social problem with considerable risk for society) and subsequent development of novel clinical interventions for violence. This discussion will take place from the perspective of Objective Self-Awareness Theory (OST) [Wicklund, R. A., & Duval, S. (1972). A theory of objective self-awareness. New York: Academic Press]. OST proposes that various manners of self-regulation failure (including violence) can be linked to a loss of objective self-awareness that causes individuals to fail to predict their own behavior on the basis of their mental models of the self. According to OST, individuals cognitively develop two self-models, one that describes the self as expressing exemplary thought and behavior according to culturally-determined standards and a second model that reflects how one actually thinks and behaves as an embodied self-agent. Objective self-awareness is then a state of explicit conscious awareness of how well the current state of the actual self matches the ideal self-state. Life events that highlight the discrepancies between these two self-model states induce a negative self-evaluation within the individual that increases their risk of losing objective self-awareness (either by losing awareness of the characteristics of an individual's ideal self or by losing awareness of the discrepancy between the actual and ideal selves). In turn, this may lead to self-regulation failure and an overestimation of threats, which increases the propensity to engage in violent acts. Importantly, the predictive cycle proposed by OST is consistent with an emerging theoretical approach in neuroscience called predictive coding (PC) that views prediction and error correction as fundamental operations of the brain that are closely related to the neural correlates of consciousness [Seth, A. K. et al. (2012). An interoceptive predictive coding model of conscious presence. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 395]. This presentation will discuss the theoretical relationship between OST, PC, self-awareness, and neural activity within three interconnected large-scale brain networks known to correlate with violent behavior (the Salience Network, Default Mode Network, and Executive Control Network). This will then be followed by an analysis of the implications of the OST-PC framework for the development of interventions to promote objective self-awareness and reduce violence such as mindfulness- and compassion-based interventions.