Intentionality Effects on Event Boundaries

AbstractTheories of event cognition have hypothesized that the boundaries of events are characterized by change, including a change in the agent’s goal, but the role of higher-order goal information on the placement of event boundaries has not been addressed experimentally. We tested whether goals can affect how viewers determine event boundaries. Participants read a context sentence stating an agent’s goal (e.g., “Jesse wants to eat the orange with her breakfast” vs. “Jesse wants to use the orange as a garnish”). Participants then saw an image of an event outcome (e.g., a partly peeled orange) and were asked to identify whether the event had occurred (“Did she peel the orange?”). Participants were more likely to respond Yes to a partly complete outcome if the outcome satisfied the agent’s goal. Our results offer the first direct evidence in support of the conclusion that higher-order intentionality information affects the way events are conceptualized.

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