Intention in communication

Steve Long Salinas17 at AOL.COM
Fri Feb 23 19:51:45 UTC 2001

In a message dated 2/23/2001 2:10:45 PM, akbari_r at YAHOO.COM writes:
<< If we talk about intention as an indispensable part of communication, then
how can we measure it ? That is, how would you show that someone has more
intention than another ?>>

The first problem, I think, is that the subject may have plenty of intention,
but not to do what we think or would like him to do.

<<Is there any quantifiable method for measuring intention ? >>

Just a quick sidebar on maybe what the problem could be here.

How much can we infer from actual behavior what the intended behavior or
intended effect was?  This is a key question.  Not only because it reflects
our lack of ability to observe "intention" directly as a private event, but
also because it reflects how much we can control the variable of intention in
order to test it.

Let's say we are simply asking the subject to do a task.  We assume it is his
intention is to do the task and his intended effect is to get the task done.
But what can interfere with that assumption?

Motivation - is the subject actually intending to attempt to complete the
task?  Attention - is the subject being somehow distracted away from his
intended goal?  Skill - is the intended effect beyond the subject's physical
skills?  Deception (the Cool Hand Luke Effect) - does the subject honestly
have the intention of completely the task?  Emotion - will the setting induce
a panic or other interfering level of emotion?  Inexperience - is the subject
untrained in achieving the intended effect?   Mechanical behavior - is the
subject intending to do the actions without regard to whether or not the
actions are appropriate to achieve the goal?  And, of course, Unintended
Results - including the adjustments made over numerous trials in the process
we call learning, where the subject only approaches the intended effect over

If we assume a 1 to 1 correlation between intention and action or
consequence, these are all factors that can reduce that ratio.  The gap
between what the subject intends and the real world outcome is one thing.
The gap between what he intends and what we think or hope he intends is

One solution may be to look to what might be a highly co-dependent variable -
attention?  Can there be continuous intention without collateral attention?

Steve Long

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