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Everyday clairvoyance: How your brain makes near-future predictions
Date:8/17/2011

es unpredictably.

"When we watch everyday activity unfold around us, we make predictions about what will happen a few seconds out," Zacks says. "Most of the time, our predictions are right.

"Successfull predictions are associated with the subjective experience of a smooth stream of consciousness. But a few times a minute, our predictions come out wrong and then we perceive a break in the stream of consciousness, accompanied by an uptick in activity of primitive parts of the brain involved with the MDS that regulate attention and adaptation to unpredicted changes."

Zacks tested healthy young volunteers who were shown movies of everyday events such as washing a car, building a LEGO model or washing clothes. The movie would be watched for a while, and then it was stopped.

Participants then were asked to predict what would happen five seconds later when the movie was re-started by selecting a picture that showed what would happen, and avoiding similar pictures that did not correspond to what would happen.

Half of the time, the movie was stopped just before an event boundary, when a new event was just about to start. The other half of the time, the movie was stopped in the middle of an event. The researchers found that participants were more than 90 percent correct in predicting activity within the event, but less than 80 percent correct in predicting across the event boundary. They were also less confident in their predictions.

"This is the point where they are trying hardest to predict the future," Zacks says. "It's harder across the event boundary, and they know that they are having trouble. When the film is stopped, the participants are heading into the time when prediction error is starting to surge. That is, they are noting that a possible error is starting to happen. And that shakes their confidence. They're thinking, 'Do I really know what's going to happen next?' "

Zacks and his group were keenly int
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Contact: Gerry Everding
gerry_everding@wustl.edu
314-935-6375
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert  

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