Tremblay, Simon & Essafi Tremblay, Safae & Poirier, Pierre. (2021). From filters to fillers: an active inference approach to body image distortion in the selfie era. AI & SOCIETY. 36. 10.1007/s00146-020-01015-w.


Advances in artificial intelligence, as well as its increased presence in everyday life, have brought the emergence of many new phenomena, including an intriguing appearance of what seems to be a variant of body dysmorphic disorder, coined “Snapchat dysmorphia”. Body dysmorphic disorder is a DSM-5 psychiatric disorder defined as a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in physical appearance that are not observable or appear slight to others. Snapchat dysmorphia is fueled by automated selfie filters that reflect unrealistic sociocultural standard. In this paper, we discuss how body dysmorphic disorder and related body image distortions could arise, using the conceptual resources provided by the active inference framework. We suggest that these disorders involve dysfunctional self-modelling which entails maladaptive internalization of sociocultural preferences during adolescent identity formation. Identity formation is hereby described as cycles of interpersonal active inference that arbitrate between identity exploration and commitment. We propose that impaired self-modelling is unable to reduce interpersonal uncertainty during identity exploration, which, over time, degenerates into uncontrollable epistemic habits that isolate the body image from corrective sensory evidence. In light of these insights, we subsequently explore some of the consequences of image-centered social media platforms on the identity formation process. We conclude that heightened interpersonal uncertainty in this novel context could precipitate the onset of body dysmorphic disorder and related body image distortions, particularly when selfie filters are involved.