Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This paper explores the relationship between verbal direction and an observer's ability to attribute intention to others' behaviors. Sparked by Skinner's (1945) challenge and based on the behavior analytic writings, the current study proposed that participants would be better able to attribute intention under circumstances with greater stimulus control (i.e., more specified verbal direction) than those situations with less stimulus control (i.e., nonverbal conditions). Forty-two participants watched a series of video scenarios and were asked, after each viewing, to identify intentional behavior. Participants were assigned to one of three experimental conditions (Verbal 2, Verbal 1, or Nonverbal), each with different levels of verbal direction provided before viewing each video. After watching each video, participants completed identical questionnaires asking about the behaviors they observed. Results indicated that while the level of verbal direction is a contributing factor in attributing intention, the relation is far from linear. This research provided an initial evaluation of intention attribution and served as a basis for further research in the area of intention attribution.


Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair: Paul Neuman
Committee Members: Leslie Rescorla, Mary Eno, Philip Hineline, Michael Noel