Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Psychology

Reader 1

Piercarlo Valdesolo

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© 2014 Kelly E. Chen

Abstract

Despite considerable theoretical interest in the social functions of gossip, to date there has been very little empirical research conducted examining the social consequences of gossip. This study will apply an experimental lab manipulation to explore the conditions under which different types and different frequencies of gossip affect certain attitudes—power and liking—towards gossipers. Within the context of a modified dictator game, confederates communicated three types (prosocial, self-relevant, and neutral) and two frequencies (low and high) of gossip to participants. Results were expected to show that high frequency gossipers would be perceived as more powerful than low-frequency gossipers. Perceptions of power were also predicted to differ across the three types of gossip conveyed. Moreover, I hypothesized that self-relevant and prosocial gossipers would be significantly more likable more than neutral gossipers. Lastly, frequency was expected to have different effects on liking depending on whether the gossip transmitted was neutral or not. Results did not confirm any of the main hypotheses. However, this study has established a strong theoretical foundation for examining how others perceive gossipers by helping clarify key social functions of gossip and shed light on reputational ramifications for those who gossip.

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