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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Nov 7;275(1650):2529-36. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0762.

Multiple gossip statements and their effect on reputation and trustworthiness.

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Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Postfach 165, 24306 Plön, Germany.


Empirical and theoretical evidence from various disciplines indicates that reputation, reputation building and trust are important for human cooperation, social behaviour and economic progress. Recently, it has been shown that reputation gained in games of indirect reciprocity can be transmitted by gossip. But it has also been shown that gossiping has a strong manipulative potential. We propose that this manipulative potential is alleviated by the abundance of gossip. Multiple gossip statements give a better picture of the actual behaviour of a person, and thus inaccurate or fake gossip has little power as long as it is in the minority. In addition, we investigate the supposedly strong connection between reciprocity, reputation and trust. The results of this experimental study (with 11 groups of 12 students each) document that gossip quantity helps to direct cooperation towards cooperators. Moreover, reciprocity, trust and reputations transferred via gossip are positively correlated. This interrelation might have helped to reach the high levels of cooperation that can be observed in humans.

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