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When and How Goals Are Contagious in Social Interaction


  • Nicholas A. Palomares

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Communication, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
      Nicholas A. Palomares; e-mail:
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Nicholas A. Palomares; e-mail:


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.

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