Research Topic

From intentions to actions: Psychological and neural processes

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The concept of intentions has been central to describing and explaining human goal directed behavior. In everyday life we constantly plan, store and implement intentions. In many cases, such implementations are immediate (e.g., take a glass to drink), in other cases they are delayed (e.g., when I will meet ...

The concept of intentions has been central to describing and explaining human goal directed behavior. In everyday life we constantly plan, store and implement intentions. In many cases, such implementations are immediate (e.g., take a glass to drink), in other cases they are delayed (e.g., when I will meet John I have to give him back the book that I borrowed). Moreover, forming such intentions involves more or less elaborate planning and mental time travel. In addition, executing intended actions is related to volitional processes. Thus, describing and explaining the processes involved from building intentions to implementing them is a complex conceptual and empirical challenge that is, so far, studied by rarely cross-talking fields of research (such as, e.g., volition, episodic future thinking, action control, implementation intentions and prospective memory). The main goal of the present proposal is to inter-connect these fields of research and to combine recent behavioral with neuroscience advances in those areas. Especially, in spite of the advances of recent neurophysiological and neuropsychologicaltechniques and their important contribution to the clarification of the basic mechanisms underlying intentional actions, there are still some fundamental issues that remain unresolved. Examples are:
- How are intentions formed (e.g., the role of episodic future thinking in the formation of intentions)?
- How are intentions maintained (e.g., the role of episodic and working memory)?
- How are intentions executed and later deactivated in the face of competing goals?
- What are the mechanisms and the neural basis of forming and implementing intentions and are those for immediate versus delayed intentions different?

In our opinion, the concept of intention offers a good tool for knowledge transfer across disciplines and interdisciplinary empirical approaches. The aim of the present research topic is to promote and facilitate such interdisciplinarity for a better understanding of why and how we organize our intentions. Thus, we ask leading experts in the associated fields to contribute their work and – as a requirement for a submission – to cross-reference to other related field of intention research. Hence, submissions should (empirically and/or conceptually) consider at least one other research tradition (e.g., a paper focusing on prospective memory should also consider its link to volition or episodic future thinking…)


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