A striking feature of experienced cognition is the sense of agency, the experience of ourselves as actors in control of our own activity. This phenomenon has always been problematic for scientific psychology, and psychologists with theoretical inclinations ranging from behaviorism (e.g., Skinner, 1971) to contemporary cognitive science (e.g., Jackendoff, 1987) have rejected it as a kind of illusion or epiphenomenon. But cognitive theory cannot do without some concept of internal control, and in current theory, that idea is most often identified with the label goal. In this chapter, I consider the role of goals and goal structures (organized patterns of goals) in experienced cognition. My central theme is that we should understand intentions, or instantiated goals, as instances of egolocative processing that function in the control of cognitive activity and that constitute the experience of agency. I thus consider the structure of intentions in terms of the variables of intentional structure discussed in previous chapters.
Intentions in this sense are a special case of intentional mental states. I often refer to instantiated goals rather than to intentions in order to minimize possible confusions produced by this terminological correspondence, but use the more colloquial term intention when possible. Also, intentions as instantiated goals should be distinguished from desires, in that a desire does not by itself imply action. Together with beliefs, desires may be precursors of instantiated goals ( Dulany, 1968), as discussed in chapter 6. In this chapter, however, my focus is not on the generation of intentions, but on their structure and role in experienced cognition.