Anticipatory Consciousness


The purpose of this workshop is to provide an in-depth examination of the relationship between anticipation and consciousness. Presenters will address this relationship from scientific, theoretic, and philosophical perspectives. Following the presentations, group discussion will focus upon three issues; specifically, (1) each presenter’s use of the concepts “anticipation” and “consciousness”, (2) the costs and benefits engendered by these conceptual commitments, and (3) theoretical syntheses that might emerge from conceptual differences revealed during group discussion.

The workshop will begin with a five-minute introduction to the theme by the workshop organizer. Each of four presentations will then last 45 minutes. However, instead of conducting a 45-minute lecture, speakers should generate roughly 30-minutes of “lecture” material so that audience members have the opportunity to engage speakers in real-time, and play an important role in the unfolding of the workshop. After three hours of such presentations, the remaining 25 minutes will be moderated by the workshop organizer, and will be geared toward addressing the three, previously-mentioned issues.


Workshop presenters


Patric Bach

Action Prediction Lab

University of Plymouth, UK


Jay Dixon

Department of Psychological Sciences

University of Connecticut at Storrs


Scott Jordan (chair)

Department of Psychology

Illinois State University at Normal, USA


Zdravko Radman

Institute of Philosophy

University of Zagreb, Coratia




Patric Bach

Perceptual Anticipation as Foundation of Social Perception


Recent proposals argue that our understanding of other people’s behavior emerges from a predictive process that “paints” others future behaviour and their knowledge of the word onto ones’ own perceptual system. I will report data from two experimental paradigms that provide direct support for such views. These studies show, first, that people’s understanding of others’ behaviour is guided by perceptual anticipations of their forthcoming actions. These anticipations can be made visible as subtle distortions of a perceived action’s path towards those expectations. Second, they show that perceptual expectations of another’s sensory input also underlie people’s ability to take others’ perspective, providing a view how the world looks to them that can support own decision making. Together, these findings argue for a framework in which perceptual anticipations play a key role in social cognition and provide one with insights into others knowledge of the world and their future behaviour. 



Patric Bach was awarded his DPhil in Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany in 2004. He has previously held a research post at Bangor University, Wales, and is now, since 2009, Associate Professor in Psychology at Plymouth University, Devon, UK. He works at the intersection of psychology of action and (social) cognitive neuroscience. He studies how people can plan and control their own actions, and how they make sense of the behaviour of others.



James A. Dixon, Benjamin De Bari, Bruce A. Kay, and Dilip Kondepudi 

Lessons on Anticipation from Simple Physical Systems


Anticipation has the strong flavor of a cognitive act. When we anticipate, we know what is coming, such that we can become poised for imminent events before they occur. It seems self-evident that only cognitive models could forecast the future this way. In this talk, we will offer an alternative, minimal account of anticipation in which a simple physical system becomes poised with regards to a low-energy field based on its history. The physical system is a dissipative structure that forms and maintains itself in the service of dissipating a high-voltage electrical field. If the electrical field is spatially coupled with a secondary magnetic field during the formation of the dissipative structure, the spatial arrangement of elements within the structure is altered. This spatial arrangement allows the system to maintain a poised state with regards to the magnetic field. The properties of this anticipatory behavior and analogs to biological anticipation will be discussed. 



James A. Dixon is a Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Connecticut, and the Director of the Center for the Ecological Study of Perception & Action. He received his BA from the State University of New York at Albany in 1986, and his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1992. Professor Dixon’s work has focused on self-organization in human behavior, including development and learning. More recently, in collaboration with physicists and chemists, he has been developing minimal physical analogs to biological systems. The goal of this work is to elucidate fundamental principles that underwrite biological function. 



Scott Jordan 

Organisms Are Consciousness (Aboutness) and Anticipation (Embodied Constraint) 


The present talk offers an approach to anticipation and consciousness that is based on Wild Systems Theory (WST—Jordan, 2018, 2017, 2013), a recently developed approach to consciousness, life, and cognition that begins by describing organisms as self-sustaining energy-transformation systems that constitute embodiments of context. Within this framework, anticipation refers to a self-sustaining system’s ability to pre-specify and constrain the dynamic possibilities of its nested transformation systems. This talk will describe how anticipation, defined as the prospective constraint of context, evolved from the small-scale contexts constrained by a single cell, to the full-blown, self-aware pre-specification and constraint of contexts (i.e., forward-looking thinking) exhibited in human anticipation. Specifically, anticipation scaled up because (1) the systems that phylogenetically entailed it (i.e., organisms) were energy-transformation systems who simultaneously constituted a possible energy source for potentially emergent energy transformation systems (i.e., plants and herbivores), and (2) as self-sustaining embodiments of context, such systems are naturally and necessarily ‘about’ the contexts they embody. As a result, they are inherently meaningful (i.e., “about”), and the phenomenon we refer to as consciousness is a contextually-emergent, phylogenetically scaled-up recursion on the self-sustaining pre-specification and constraint of nested, dynamic possibilities we see in single cell organisms. In short, anticipation and consciousness are not something an organism does or has, respectively. Rather, they constitute what an organism is.


Jordan, J. S. (2018). It’s hard work Being No One. Frontiers in Psychology—Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. In J. M. Windt’s (Ed.), Philosophical and Ethical Aspects of a Science of Consciousness and the Self. 9:2632.

Jordan, J. S. (2017). Wild anticipation: On the evolution of meaning. In R. Poli’s (Ed.), Handbook of anticipation. Springer Nature.

Jordan, J. S. (2013). The wild ways of conscious will: What we do, how we do it, and why it has meaning. Frontiers in Psychology, 4.



J. Scott Jordan’s research focuses on the relationship between consciousness, action, self, anticipation, and identity. He has held fellowships at the University of Ulm, Germany (1992-1993), the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich, Germany (1998-1999), and the Center for Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Bielefeld, Germany (2006). He also worked as an Invited Scholar at the Riken Brain Institute in Wakoshi, Japan (2007). He founded the Institute for Prospective Cognition in 2008. He published many papers on what he refers to as Wild Systems Theory—a 21st-century, philosophical, theoretical, empirical framework for the arts and sciences, in general, and cognitive science, specifically. Dr. Jordan is currently serving as Chair of the Department of Psychology at Illinois State University.



Zdravko Radman

Aheadness: On the Temporally Extended Mind


Can we have experience of something that is not yet present in the senses? Can the qualitative be felt ahead of the actual? If consciousness is, in part, emancipated from the sensory, what is that what helps shaping experience? What are the arguments that support the claim that all perception is about expectation? How does implicit guesswork function? How does the background shape the foreground? Can we conceive of a phenomenology of the forthcoming? Could we not further conceive of a kind of hermeneutics of experience?
These are some of the questions that motivate and help shape this presentation that is basically critical of the too abstract and pretty lifeless account of intentionality, including its present-centeredness. The term ‘aheadness’ has been coined to account for the multiple aspects of mental capacity responsible for projecting of what seems to be most likely the case in the world and for suggesting of the most appropriate ‘next step’ in behaviour. An appeal will be thus made to redescribe intentionality in terms of prospection and establish ‘aheadness’ as an aspect of ‘aboutness’. Seen in such a way ‘aheadness’ is never innocent; it always comes with attitudes and is in that sense never disinterested.



Zdravko Radman is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy, Univesity of Zagreb. As Balokovic scholar and later an Alexander von Humboldt and a William J. Fulbright Fellow he was affiliated with Harvard University, the University of Konstanz and the University of California, Berkeley. As a visiting professor he conducted research at the Australian National University, Canberra, the University of Tokyo, University College London, Unversity Aix-Marseille, among others. He has published mainly in the philosophy of mind, aesthetics, and the philosophy of language and culture. His recent publications include edited volumes: Before Consciousness: In Search of the Fundamentals of Mind, Imprint Academic, 2017; The Hand, an Organ of the Mind: What the Manual Tells the Mental, The MIT Press, 2013; Knowing without Thinking: Mind, Action, Cognition, and the Phenomenon of the Background, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. He authored Metaphors: Figures of the Mind, Dordrecht: Kluwer/Springer, 1997/2010. He received the prize for scientific excellence awarded by the Institute of Philosophy at Zagreb in 2014.