Strategic Behavior through a Group’s Grapevine - Gossip between Group Members Shapes Receiver Behavior


Indirect reciprocity and partner choice theories imply gossip –a sender communicating to a receiver about an absent target– is shared in groups to shape receiver behavior toward targets. Senders could use gossip to punish and reward targets with whom their interests are conflicting and corresponding, respectively. Positive versus negative gossip could function to encourage receivers to reward and targets, respectively. Yet, empirical tests of real-world gossip are lacking. We randomly sampled observations of everyday gossip between in-group members (k = 1,756; N = 282). Supporting our predictions, conflicting versus corresponding interests with targets related directly and indirectly to more positive gossip. More corresponding interests related positively to reporting receivers should help targets and negatively to reporting receivers should avoid targets. In turn, reporting receivers should help targets related to more positive gossip while reporting receivers should avoid the target related to less positive gossip. Therefore, everyday gossip fits with indirect reciprocity and partner choice theories, indicating senders can use gossip to strategically shape group member behavior.

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
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.