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What is the purpose of attitude signaling?

Monday, with a first-time partner, I muffed the defense on a hand. I led a low heart from QJ54 against 3NT, partner played the nine, declarer won with the Ace. So I place the ten in partner's hand and the King with declarer. I expect to continue the suit when I get in. Declarer plays three rounds of diamonds, and partner pitches the 9 (standard carding.) Declarer now leads a low club off dummy, inserts the Jack, and I win the Ace. I assume partner has the AQ of spades, declarer has her contract, and so lead a spade through K106 as requested. But partner has only the Ace, and declarer totes up +600. Continuing hearts sends her down. So why signal in spades? Partner explained that he wanted to show me where his values were.

West
J52
QJ54
93
A962
North
K106
87
A10642
Q104
East
A973
10963
J7
K73
South
Q84
AK2
KQ85
J85
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
3NT
?
D

Declarer ought to attack spades, not clubs. East should put the King up on the first round of clubs. I should probably continue hearts regardless. So don't focus too much on this particular hand, just think about the signal.

What, in general, do you expect from an attitude discard?

When partner signals for a side suit, where either information or a switch request are plausible, you assume:

Partner is signaling possession of a key honor.
Partner is asking for a switch.
Other.

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