This paper reviews recent approaches to human action planning and the cognitive representation of intentional actions. Evidence suggests that action planning takes place in terms of anticipated features of the intended goal, that is, in terms of action effects. These effects are acquired from early infancy on by registering contingencies between movements and perceptual movement outcomes. Co-occurrence of movements and effects leads to the creation of bidirectional associations between the underlying internal codes, thus establishing distributed perception-action networks subserving both perceiving external events and intentionally producing them. Action plans determine only the general, goal-relevant features of intended actions, while the fine-tuning is left to on-line sensory-motor processing. Action plans emerge from competition for action control between several factors: overlearned habits, perceptual events, and emotional influences, among others. Accordingly, action control represents a balance between personal intentions and wishes on the one hand and environmental affordances and demands on the other.