Gossip is often characterized as bad and immoral. The authors challenge this view and propose that gossip constrains self-serving behavior that harms the group. When people expect their group members to gossip and their decisions are identifiable, they will be concerned about group members' opinions, and this should lead them to contribute more resources to the group. When people believe their group members are unlikely to gossip, identifiability of decisions should have less impact on group opinion concerns and contributions to the group. Participants were led to believe that their fellow group members had a low or high tendency to gossip, and that their contribution to the group was identifiable by the group or not. Results confirmed our hypotheses, demonstrating that gossip is a powerful tool to control self-serving behavior in groups. Indeed, the grapevine keeps group members in line. Although mostly viewed negatively, gossip may be essential for groups' survival.
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