Analogical transfer of intentions

Luiza ShahbazyanNew Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria
Georgi PetkovNew Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria
Lilia GurovaNew Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria

Abstract

Humans are exceptionally good at inferring the intentions behind particular behavior even when the situation is complex or the context is completely new. In this paper we explore the hypothesis that a kind of analogical transfer from past experience to present situations plays an important role in the process of attributing intentions to ambiguous actions. The participants in our experiment were presented with two stories, the latter containing an ambiguous action. They were asked to evaluate how plausible was that the actor in the second story had a particular intention, either positive, or negative, or neutral. We found that the participants rated higher the plausibility of a negative intention when the preceding story was relationally similar and its actor manifested negative intentions. The attribution of intention to the ambiguous action was not different from that in the control condition when the preceding story was dissimilar or perceptually similar, or when its actor manifested positive intentions. These findings suggest that an analogical transfer of intentions does play a role in the attribution of intentions to ambiguous actions but the effect is limited to the attribution of negative intentions.

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