Beliefs and Inference

Beliefs are propositions about the true states of the world.
Active inference—a process theory based on the free energy principle—describes how an agent forms and updates beliefs.
The active inference framework posits that the agent
(i) observes the world,
(ii) infers the causes of the observations, and
(iii) forms beliefs about the external states of the world.

The agents then act in the world, prompting new observations, and thereby update their beliefs. These beliefs underwrite how an agent approaches the world, and how they will navigate through it, given possible paths into the future. Modeling how agents update their beliefs is thus central to understanding both micro and macro-phenomena, such as deviations in beliefs at an individual level, resulting in dysfunctional behavior and the development psychiatric conditions. And, at the group level, allowing us to better understand socio-political dynamics in multi-agent scenarios.

If an individual’s beliefs cannot be flexibly updated, they may consistently act in a way to align their observations with their beliefs, which would result in dysfunctional behavior. Such individuals would not be able to update their beliefs, even when confronted with new observations that challenge their current beliefs. This is a common symptom observed in individuals with depression, where they tend to not act in their environment even when they do have control, giving rise, over time, to a sense of learned helplessness, and to low motivation and inaction.

Details can be found in the Opinion Article from  Albarracin M and Pitliya RJ (2022) The nature of beliefs and believing. Front. Psychol. 13:981925.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.981925

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