Purpose and Intention

Skinner (1974) also recognized the concepts of purpose and intention, but agam, he cautioned agamst attributing behavior to them. Purpose and intention exist within the skin, but they are not subject to direct outside scrutiny. A felt, ongoing purpose may itself be reinforcing. For example, if you believe that your purpose for jogging is to feel better and live longer, then this thought per se acts as a reinforcing stimulus, especially while undergoing the drudgery of joggmg or when trying to explam your motivation to a nonrunner.

A person may "intend" to see a movie Friday evening because viewing similar films has been reinforcing. At the time the person intends to go to the movie, she feels a physical condition within the body and labels it an "intention." What are called intentions or purposes, therefore, are physically felt stimuli within the organism and not mentalistic events responsible for behavior. "The consequences of operant behavior are not what the behavior is now for; they are merely similar to the consequences that have shaped and maintained it" (Skinner, 1987a, p. 57).

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