intentional behaviour

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Behaviour that has the appearance of being intentional or purposive. Intention movements are incomplete behaviour patterns that provide potential information that an animal is about to perform a particular activity. For example, when a bird is about to take off in flight, it first crouches, then raises its tail and withdraws its head. The crouching may occur a number of times before the bird takes off, or it may not precede flight at all. Intention movements may undergo ritualization and play a role in animal communication.

Intention movements are not usually regarded as evidence of true intention, but are likely to be the initial stages of behaviour patterns that are terminated prematurely, either because the animal is in a motivational conflict, or because its attention is diverted to some other aspect of behaviour. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how such incipient behavioural fragments could be avoided in an animal with a complex repertoire of activities.

True intention behaviour, that is carried out by reference to an explicit representation of a goal is difficult to identify in animals. Deceitful behaviour is sometimes taken as evidence of true intention, but the issue remains controversial.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.

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