What Is a Markov Blanket in Active Inference?

Active inference is a cognitive science and neuroscience framework to understand how organisms make decisions and interact with their environment. Within this framework, a Markov blanket plays a crucial role in determining the information flow between an agent and its environment. In this article, we will explore what a Markov blanket is and its significance in the context of active inference.


In the realm of active inference, the concept of a Markov blanket refers to the set of variables that shield a particular variable from the influence of all other variables outside the blanket. Essentially, it acts as a protective layer, enabling an agent to focus solely on the variables within its Markov blanket when making decisions or predictions.

The Markov Blanket

The Markov blanket around a target variable consists of three types of variables: parents, children, and parents of children. Parents directly influence the target variable, children are influenced by the target variable, and parents of children influence the children but not the target variable directly. The Markov blanket is thus an essential construct that defines a boundary separating the target variable from the rest of the system.

Significance in Active Inference

The Markov blanket is of great significance in the framework of active inference. It allows an agent to minimize the complexity of its generative model by only considering the variables within its blanket. By focusing on this subset of variables, the agent can efficiently make predictions and decisions without the need to process and account for the entire environment.

In active inference, the goal is to actively gather and process sensory information to reduce uncertainty about the hidden states of the environment. By leveraging the Markov blanket, agents can optimize their information processing and adapt their behavior accordingly. This adaptive behavior allows the agent to constantly update its internal model, making it better aligned with the true state of the environment.


Understanding the concept of a Markov blanket is crucial in active inference. The Markov blanket enables efficient decision-making and prediction by delineating a boundary between an agent and its environment. It allows agents to focus on the variables that directly impact their beliefs and actions, optimizing their interaction with the world.

In summary, the Markov blanket acts as a protective layer, shielding an agent from the complexities of the external world. By selectively attending to the variables within its blanket, an agent can engage in active inference and make informed decisions based on the available information.

As a living organism surviving in an entropic world, take the time to be grateful for your Markov blanket’s protective shield today!

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