Intentions, Selection, and Agency
In the "Intentions, Selection, and Agency" (ISA) project, we investigate how humans remember what they have decided to do. Due to their vibrant and busy lives, humans make multiple decisions regarding future actions on a regular basis. However, many of those decisions need to be delayed for execution at a later point in time.
Consequently, we argue that there is a multitude of intentions represented in long-term memory at any given moment in time. When the time is right, the cognitive system has to select and retrieve, out of this multitude of stored intentions, the right intention for execution. This ability is central for human agency. Without it, humans would lose their ability for long-term planning, and their psychological and practical life would lose its structure and stability.
While other proposed theories of the formation of intentions account only for the production and implementation of one intention at a time (e.g., Pacherie, 2008), the ISA project’s main focus is the selection process among many possible options behind the choice to act in a particular way. Our fundamental idea is that selecting intentions from long-term memory is a computational selection problem similar to selection problems in visual attention. By adopting C. Bundesen’s (1990) Theory of Visual Attention (TVA; Bundesen, Habekost, & Kyllingsbæk, 2011), and G. D. Logan and R. D. Gordon’s (2001) Executive Control of Visual Attention Theory (ECTVA), we are developing a Computational Theory of Intention Selection (CTIS) of how standing intentions are selected from long-term memory, transformed into occurrent intentions in working memory, and then into executive intentions leading to action.
The ISA project is funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF), and consists of Assoc. Prof. Thor Grünbaum from the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, Prof. Søren Kyllingsbæk and PhD student Franziska Oren from the Department of Psychology, as well as several Bachelor’s and Master’s students in Philosophy and Psychology, University of Copenhagen. Moreover, the project is strongly supported by collaborations with a number of national and international experts in relevant fields of philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience; e.g., Assoc. Prof. Mark S. Christensen (Department of Neuroscience, University of Copenhagen), Prof. John Duncan (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge), Prof. Gordon D. Logan (Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University), Prof. Elisabeth Pacherie (Institut Jean Nicod, Paris), Prof. Alfred Mele (Department of Philosophy, Florida State University), Prof. Hong Yu Wong (Department of Philosophy, University of Tübingen), Prof. Colin Blakemore (University of London).
The ISA project organizes workshops twice a year with invitees studying human agency, decision- making, prospective memory, goal pursuit, executive control and task switching – to name a few. Workshops that have been held in the past are listed below. Information on upcoming workshops will be announced here as soon as available.
- 10. February 2017: Prospective Memory and Intentions. University of Copenhagen
- 15.-16. June 2017: Mechanisms of Intention. University of Copenhagen
- 29. September 2017: Agency and Control. University of Copenhagen
- 28.-29. May 2018: Mechanisms and Models of Intention. MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge