Goal contagion: perceiving is for pursuing

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2004 Jul;87(1):23-37. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.87.1.23.


Six studies examined the goal contagion hypothesis, which claims that individuals may automatically adopt and pursue a goal that is implied by another person's behavior. Participants were briefly exposed to behavioral information implying a specific goal and were then given the opportunity to act on the goal in a different way and context. Studies 1-3 established the goal contagion phenomenon by showing that the behavioral consequences of goal contagion possess features of goal directedness: (a) They are affected by goal strength, (b) they have the quality of goal appropriateness, and (c) they are characterized by persistence. Studies 4-6 show that people do not automatically adopt goals when the observed goal pursuit is conducted in an unacceptable manner, because the goal will then be perceived as unattractive. The results are discussed in the context of recent research on automatic goal pursuits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Automatism
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Perception