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date: 12 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In the evolutionary sciences, gossip is argued to constitute an adaptation that enabled human beings to disseminate information about and to keep track of others within a vast and expansive social network. Although gossip can effectively encourage in-group cooperation, it can also be used as a low-cost and covert aggressive tactic to compete with others for valued resources. In line with evolutionary logic, the totality of evidence to date demonstrates that women prefer to aggress indirectly against their rivals via tactics such as gossip and social exclusion, in comparison to men who use proportionally more direct forms of aggression (e.g., physical aggression). As such, it has been argued that heterosexual women may use gossip as their primary weapon of choice to derogate same-sex rivals in order to damage their reputation and render them less desirable as mates to the opposite sex. This involves attacking the physical attractiveness and sexual reputation of other women, which correspond to men’s evolved mating preferences. Androcentric theorizing in the evolutionary sciences has stifled a well-rounded understanding of how women use gossip to compete, with whom, and in what situations.

Keywords: gossip, intrasexual competition, indirect aggression, sexual reputation, mate value, adaptation

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