Abstract

Prior intentions are abstract mental representations that are believed to be the prime cause of our intentional actions. To date, only a few studies have focused on the possibility that single prior intentions could be identified in people's minds. Here, for the first time, we used the autobiographical Implicit Association Test (aIAT) in order to identify a specific prior intention on the basis of a pattern of associations derived from reaction times (Experiment 1). The aIAT is based on two critical blocks: the block associating intentions with true sentences (congruent block) gave rise to faster reaction times (RTs) than the block associating intentions with false sentences (incongruent block). Furthermore, when comparing intentions with hopes, it was revealed that the reported effect was intention-specific: The pattern of associations reflected a congruency effect when intentions and the logical category “True” were paired, but not when hopes and the “True” category were paired (Experiment 2). Finally, we investigated the neural bases of the congruency effect that leads to the identification of an intention (Experiment 3). We found a reduced late positive component (LPC) for the incongruent with respect to the congruent block, suggesting that the incongruent block needs additional resources of cognitive control with respect to the congruent block.

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