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date: 24 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Gossip is often invoked as playing a fundamental role for creating, sustaining, or destroying cooperation. The reason seems straightforward: gossip can make or break someone’s reputation. This chapter puts this standard reputational model to closer scrutiny. It argues that there are at least three other models to consider, and it presents an analytical framework to disentangle similarities and differences between these models. Explicating all three roles in the gossip triad, it allows to distinguish (a) individual motives behind gossiping, (b) its reputation effects on the actors, (c) the impact of gossip and reputation on the quality and sustainability of cooperation, and (d) the role of the context. Applying the framework reveals a deep divide between reputation and punishment models propagated by experimental economics and evolutionary psychology, on the one hand, and coalition and control models informed by sociology, on the other hand. The chapter discusses implications for a sociological research agenda.

Keywords: gossip, reputation, cooperation, punishment, reciprocity, social structure, cultural context, social mechanisms

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