Distrusting the present

Jakob Hohwy, Bryan Paton, Colin Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


We use the hierarchical nature of Bayesian perceptual inference to explain a fundamental aspect of the temporality of experience, namely the phenomenology of temporal flow. The explanation says that the sense of temporal flow in conscious perception stems from probabilistic inference that the present cannot be trusted. The account begins by describing hierarchical inference under the notion of prediction error minimization, and exemplifies distrust of the present within bistable visual perception and action initiation. Distrust of the present is then discussed in relation to previous research on temporal phenomenology. Finally, we discuss how there may be individual differences in the experience of temporal flow, in particular along the autism spectrum. The resulting view is that the sense of temporal flow in conscious perception results from an internal, inferential process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-335
Number of pages21
JournalPhenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Action
  • Autism
  • Binocular rivalry
  • Hierarchical Bayesian inference
  • Perception
  • Prediction error minimization
  • Specious present
  • Temporal phenomenology

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