Nasty and Noble Notes - Interdependence Structure drives Self-Serving Gossip


Gossip is characteristic of human social life. People thus frequently face the decision to gossip or not, which can have important consequences for themselves and others. Two contrasting and separated views on the motives for gossip exist. In the prosocial view, gossip is motivated to benefit others and promote cooperation. In the proself view, gossip is motivated to benefit oneself by manipulating reputations. To unify these views, we argue motives for gossip depend on the interdependence between involved parties. We conducted an experimental study under 378 participants in which we manipulated the interdependence by making potential gossipers’ outcomes equal to the gossip target, equal to the gossip receiver, and random (independent). Results show that gossip was more frequent than withholding gossip in each context, indicating prosocial motives as in the independent context gossip could only benefit others. But in interdependent versus independent contexts, gossipers self-reported more selfish motives. Moreover, when interdependent with the target, false gossip that could benefit gossipers was much more prevalent. Yet interdependence with the receiver did not lead to more false gossip that could benefit gossipers, indicating true gossip in this context stemmed from proself and prosocial motives. Concludingly, interdependence shaped gossip content and the motives to gossip. Proself and prosocial views of gossip are complementary: both true and false gossip stemmed from prosocial as well as proself motives in different contexts. Thus, to understand when and why people gossip, incorporating both prosocial and proself motives and understanding the context in which gossip occurs is crucial.

Tilburg,The Netherlands
Terence Daniel Dores Cruz
PhD Candidate

I am broadly interested in human cooperation. Currently, I study gossip’s role in cooperation with regards to reasons for gossip and reactions to gossip.