Document Type



Master of Science



First Adviser

Moskowitz, Gordon B.

Other advisers/committee members

Gill, Michael J.; Burke, Christopher T.; Schneid, Erica D.


Previous studies show that, when people learn about or observe behaviors of others, they tend to make implicit inferences from these behaviors (Uleman, Saribay, & Gonzalez, 2008). In the present research, we aimed to determine the conditions under which people are more likely to make implicit goal inferences vs. trait inferences. In Studies 1 and 2, we analyzed the role of behavioral information received in the type of inference made. Specifically, we manipulated consistency of the actors' behaviors as well as the distinctiveness of the actions (i.e., if the action is initiated towards a specific entity or not) in light of Kelley's (1967) covariation principle. Study 1 showed that people tend to implicitly infer goals more from behaviors that include low consistency and low distinctiveness information compared to behaviors that include high consistency and high distinctiveness information. Study 2 sought to replicate this finding using a separate paradigm. People were shown to make implicit goal inferences from behaviors with low consistency and low distinctiveness information. In Study 3, we analyzed inferences from simple behaviors (with no consistency or distinctiveness information) and the effect of perceivers' motives on the type of inference made. We showed that people engage in both types of inferences from reading simple behaviors but only when they are motivated to make goal or trait inference. We also showed that chronic goals (related to personal need for structure and conservative ideology) may determine the type of inference made (i.e., higher tendency to make trait than goal inferences). Taken together, the present research revealed that the type of inference made depends on the type of information received as well as the specific (temporary or chronic) motivation of the perceiver.

Included in

Psychology Commons