Understanding Intentions: Distinct Processes for Mirroring, Representing, and Conceptualizing

Claudia Chiavarino*, Ian A. Apperly, Glyn W. Humphreys

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


We provide converging evidence from developmental, imaging, and lesion studies that intentions can be processed at three distinct levels: a mirroring level, which infers immediate action goals on the basis of observed actions; a representational level, which is concerned with the psychological-rather than merely behavioral-representation of the mental states that underlie those actions; and a conceptual level, which allows people to reason about the semantic and logical properties of mental states. Together, the representational and conceptual levels form what is currently referred to as the mentalizing system. We argue that although the mirroring and mentalizing systems may work independently of each other, within the mentalizing system, the representational level subserves the conceptual level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-289
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • conceptual representation
  • intention
  • mental representation
  • mentalizing
  • mirror system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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