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date: 12 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter explores an evolutionary, strategic account of gossip—the exchange of reputation-relevant information—arguing that gossip can be used to increase the reputations of oneself or one’s allies, relative to the reputations of competitors, in order to increase access to contested group resources. The chapter compares gossip with another strategy that can be used to deter competitors, physical aggression. It reviews developmental research on physical and nonphysical aggression, evolutionary accounts of physical and nonphysical aggression in humans, and socioecological accounts of competition for resources in nonhuman primates. It also discusses aspects of human socioecology in small-scale societies where resource competition can lead to physical aggression and/or the strategic use of gossip in reputation manipulation. The chapter argues that, whereas physical aggression predominates in competition between groups, when competition for resources is occurring within a group, gossip is superior to physical aggression as a competitive strategy.

Keywords: gossip, relational aggression, indirect aggression, social aggression, reputation, socioecological model, within-group competition, informational warfare, manipulation, evolutionary anthropology

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