When strangers start to gossip : investigating the effect of gossip on cooperation in a prisoners dilemma game
De Backer, Charlotte J.S.
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Evolutionary Psychological Science
, p. 1-10
University of Antwerp
Previous research indicates gossip is a social bonding system that is use to establish shared acquaintances and/or attitudes, to punish group norm violators, or for coercion via invoking fear of gossipmongers. However, no empirical work explores directly the relationship between gossip about freeloaders leading to improved cooperation in recipients. Thus, we predicted that the sharing of negative gossip about the freeloading behavior of a third party will lead to higher levels of cooperation. Using levels of cooperation in a prisoners dilemma game as a proxy to measure social bonding, we compared cooperation levels of 60 female respondents who met with a confederate randomly assigned to one of three conditions. They either (1) did not talk or were exposed to (2) negative reputation gossip or (3) self-disclosed negative reputation information. Results show that, even after controlling for a list of potential confounding factors, cooperation levels are high in both the control and self-disclosure condition and are significantly lower in the gossip condition. We suggest that gossip may spark initial relations, yet is insufficient to ignite a social bond sustained by cooperative action among complete strangers.