Predictive Coding


Predictive Processing


Anticipating upcoming sensations based on immediate sensations

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … range of possible anticipations
  • Knowing is … appropriate anticipations
  • Learner is … a sensing agent (organism or a digital technology)
  • Learning is … updating one’s frame of anticipation
  • Teaching is … N/A




Predictive Coding asserts that cognitive systems’ movements through the world are based more on educated expectation (top-down, conceptual knowledge) than immediate perception (bottom-up, sensory information). Learning becomes necessary when prediction errors occur –­ that is, when there is a mismatch between what the cognitive system predicts and what that system receives as sensory input. The same types of processes are used for different neural networks, including perception, understanding, dreaming, memory and imagination. The fields of computer science and Cognitive Science both utilize Predictive Coding to generate models of cognition that underlie machine learning and neural nets.


Proponents of Predictive Coding make close ties to Enactivism and its conception of the cognitive system in action-oriented terms. However, critiques claim that predictions are based on a metaphor of “stored knowledge,” which is contradictory to the premises of Enactivism. In the same vein, Predictive Coding falls among Postcognitivist Discourses, which problematize the use of computer metaphors to describe cognition.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Andy Clark

Status as a Theory of Learning

Predictive Coding provides insights into the complexities of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Predictive Coding does not attempt to offer any advice for teaching or education.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Predictive Coding is a well-established discourse in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Predictive Coding” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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