Sometimes I find myself longing for something, with little idea what it is.
This suggests that perceiving desire and perceiving which thing it is that is desired by the desire are separable mental actions.
In this state, I make guesses as to what I want. Am I thirsty? (I consider drinking some water and see if that feels appealing.) Do I want to have sex? (A brief fantasy informs me that sex would be good, but is not what I crave.) Do I want social comfort? (I open Facebook, maybe that has social comfort I could test with…)
If I do infer the desire in this way, I am still not directly reading it from my own mind. I am making educated guesses and testing them using my mind’s behavior.
Other times, it seems like I immediately know my own desires. When that happens, am I really receiving them introspectively, or am I merely playing the same inference game more insightfully?
We usually suppose that people are correct about their own immediate desires. They may be wrong about whether they want cookie A or cookie B, because they are misinformed about which one is delicious. But if they think they want to eat something delicious, we trust them on that.
On the model where we are mostly inferring our desires from more general feelings of wanting, we might expect people are wrong about their desires fairly often.