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The Folk Concept of Intentionality

In The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 33, 101-121.

Abstract: When perceiving, explaining, or criticizing human behavior, people distinguish between intentional and unintentional actions. To do so, they rely on a shared folk concept of intentionality. In contrast to past speculative models, this article provides an empirically-based model of this concept. Study 1 demonstrates that people agree substantially in their judgments of intentionality, suggesting a shared underlying concept. Study 2 reveals that when asked to directly define the term intentional, people mention four components of intentionality: desire, belief, intention, and awareness. Study 3 confirms the importance of a fifth component, namely, skill. In light of these findings, the authors propose a model of the folk concept of intentionality and provide a further test in Study 4. The discussion compares the proposed model to past ones and examines its implications for social perception, attribution, and cognitive development.

To request a copy of this paper, write to me at ‘knobe at email dot unc dot edu.’

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