Presence and general principles of brain function

  • Sjölie D
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Recent developments in general theories of cognition and brain function make it possible to consider the concept of presence from a new perspective, based in general principles of brain function. The importance of interaction with reality for the development and function of the brain and human cognition is increasingly emphasized. The brain is explained as implementing a generative model of the current environment. Whether this environment is real or virtual does not matter. Mental simulations are created for whatever one interacts with, when possible. This view provides a basis for relating human experiences in virtual environments to several theories that explain cognition and brain function on many levels, from ultimate evolutionary motivations to plausible neural implementations. The purpose of this paper is not to provide yet another definition of presence but to suggest explanations of phenomena commonly related to presence, with a basis in general principles of brain function. Such principles are employed to explain how, and why, interaction with our environment, and internalization of objects and tools therein, play an essential role in human cognition. This provides a rich basis for further analysis of how central aspects of presence, such as breaks in presence or the perceptual illusion of non-mediation, may work on a fundamental level. More general descriptions of such phenomena have advantages such as being easier to relate to new contexts and technologies, and opening up for additional inspiration and confirmation from other disciplines such as cognitive neuroscience. In addition to an account of general principles for brain function and a discussion about the concept of presence in light of these, this paper also relates this discussion to a number of previous accounts of presence, and to practical implications and applications for interaction design. © 2012 British Informatics Society Limited. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Brain function
  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Presence
  • Virtual reality

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  • Daniel Sjölie

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