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Familiarity with Interest Breeds Gossip: Contributions of Emotion, Expectation, and Reputation

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  • Bo Yao
  • Graham G. Scott
  • Phil McAleer
  • Patrick J. O'Donnell
  • Sara C. Sereno
Article numbere104916
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>13/08/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>PLoS ONE
Issue number8
Number of pages6
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Although gossip serves several important social functions, it has relatively infrequently been the topic of systematic investigation. In two experiments, we advance a cognitive-informational approach to gossip. Specifically, we sought to determine which informational components engender gossip. In Experiment 1, participants read brief passages about other people and indicated their likelihood to share this information. We manipulated target familiarity (celebrity, non-celebrity) and story interest (interesting, boring). While participants were more likely to gossip about celebrity than non-celebrity targets and interesting than boring stories, they were even more likely to gossip about celebrity targets embedded within interesting stories. In Experiment 2, we additionally probed participants' reactions to the stories concerning emotion, expectation, and reputation information conveyed. Analyses showed that while such information partially mediated target familiarity and story interest effects, only expectation and reputation accounted for the interactive pattern of gossip behavior. Our findings provide novel insights into the essential components and processing mechanisms of gossip.