Automatic goal inference and contagion: On pursuing goals one perceives in other people's behavior

Henk Aarts*, Ran R. Hassin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

19 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION, The well-being and survival of social animals depends, among other things, on grasping – and sometimes adopting – other people's goals. For example, to better prepare oneself for the future, one may need to be able to successfully predict others' behaviors. Predictions of this sort must take into account others' goals, as goals are important determinants of human behavior. Furthermore, in everyday social interactions, an understanding of the goals motivating others allows one to entertain similar goals and to try to attain them oneself – for the sake of personal as well as social needs. A necessary prerequisite for processes of this sort is an ability to encode others' behaviors in terms of the goals they desire and aim to attain. Sometimes these goals are readily available to the perceiver, as they are communicated explicitly. More often than not, however, goals are not explicitly conveyed, due either to resource constraints that limit communication or because they are nonconsciously pursued (and hence are not consciously available even to the person who pursues them). Similar constraints may thwart the adoption of others' goals even when such an adoption is warranted. Thus, limited resources, or lack of awareness, may hinder one's capacity to consider and adopt the goals of other people. Our well-being, then, may depend on processes that allow us to infer goals and adopt them effortlessly and nonconsciously. In this chapter we develop a framework for the comprehension and examination of automatic goal inference and pursuit.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationSocial Motivation
Subtitle of host publicationConscious and Unconscious Processes
EditorsJoseph P. Forgas, Kipling D. Williams, Simon M. Laham
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780511735066
ISBN (Print)9780521832540
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2004

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2005.


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