When a person decides to do something in the future, she forms an intention and her intention persists. Philosophers have thought about the rational requirement that an agent’s intention persists until its execution. But philosophers have neglected to think about the causal memory mechanisms that could enable this kind of persistence and its role in rational long-term agency. Our aim of this paper is to fill this gap by arguing that memory for intention is a specific kind of memory. We do this by evaluating and rejecting standard declarative accounts of memory for intention and arguing for the plausibility of an alternative model of memory for intention. We argue for the alternative by spelling out a number of computational principles that could enable retaining and retrieving intentions from long-term memory. These principles could explain a number of core features of intentions.
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Note that by making this assumption we are assuming that Bratman’s (1987) account of future-directed intentions is largely correct. Consequently, intentions are assumed to be qualitatively different from desires, and what we say about memory for intentions should not be assumed to transfer to an account of the role of desires in temporally extended agency.
See Altmann and Trafton (2002) for a discussion of “goal stack” models.
For empirical support of this point, see Hommel and Wiers 2017.
It is by no means implied that these are the only important cognitive features of memory for intention. For instance, as in other types of memory, there might be important constructive processes involved in retrieval and roles for metacognitive assessment in accepting or rejecting a recalled intention. Here we focus on the features that are more closely associated with Bratman’s account of intentions.
For a related way of drawing the distinction, see Naylor 2011.
See, for instance, Fernández (2006, p. 43): “Once I appear to be remembering a certain event episodically, the question whether or not I seem to have perceived that event is no longer open.”
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We are indebted to Chiara Brozzo, Denis Buehler, John Duncan, Sam Gilbert, Marion Goodman, Julia Haas, Alexander Heape, Andrew Heathcote, Ben Henke, Gordon Logan, Krisztina Orban, Hong Yu Wong, Wayne Wu, and two reviewers for the journal for insightful comments and very helpful discussions of the material. The ideas have been presented at workshops and seminars at ANU, Cambridge, Copenhagen, Grenoble, Tübingen, Munich, and Aarhus, and we are grateful for the feedback we received on those occasions.
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Grünbaum, T., Kyllingsbæk, S. Is Remembering to do a Special Kind of Memory?. Rev.Phil.Psych. 11, 385–404 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13164-020-00479-5