When and How Goals Are Contagious in Social Interaction


Nicholas A. Palomares; e-mail: napalomares@ucdavis.edu


Goal contagion occurs when a perceiver interacts with a partner whose behavior implies he/she is pursuing a particular goal and the perceiver accurately infers and subsequently pursues the partner's goal. Goal contagion was assessed in conversations between unacquainted individuals. In 2 experiments, the ways in which goal specificity, inference accuracy, and goal pursuit efficiency play a role in goal contagion were examined. In Experiment 1, goal contagion increased as perceivers accurately inferred a partner's goal, but only for an abstract information-seeking goal. In a moderated mediation analysis, Experiment 2 demonstrated that goal pursuit efficiency fostered inference accuracy, which in turn encouraged goal contagion; the magnitude of this indirect effect was strongest for an abstract information-seeking goal.