Get access

Intending or Pretending? Automatic Evaluations of Goal Cues Discriminate True and False Intentions


Correspondence to: Karl Ask, Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg, PO Box 500, SE 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden.



This research presents a novel approach to discriminating between true and deceptive statements about intended future behavior. Arguing that true intentions are goal-directed, we predict that people who genuinely intend to pursue a reported goal will implicitly evaluate goal-relevant cues positively, whereas people who do not intend to pursue the goal will not. Participants in an experiment were instructed to tell the truth about a planned future behavior (true intention) or to falsely report that same behavior to mask their actual mock-criminal intention (false intention). As predicted, an evaluative priming task showed that participants with true intention exhibited implicit positive evaluations of cues relevant to the reported goal, whereas participants with false intention did not. Subsequent analyses showed that implicit positivity significantly discriminated between true and false intentions. The findings are discussed in terms of theoretical contributions and implications for the development of future detection tools. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.