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Will any gossip do? Gossip does not need to be perfectly accurate to promote trust

Miguel Fonseca () and Kim Peters

Games and Economic Behavior, 2018, vol. 107, issue C, 253-281

Abstract: The fact that gossip can be inaccurate, intentionally or otherwise, has led to questions over its ability to build cooperation in large societies. We explore the impact of gossip accuracy on trust and trustworthiness in a population playing decentralized, two-player trust games. We observed non-trivial levels of spontaneous inaccuracy in gossip, and there was evidence that this was largely due to gossipers' desire to punish untrustworthy players. Although this endogenous inaccuracy did not adversely affect levels of trust and trustworthiness, introducing high levels of exogenous inaccuracy did. Importantly though, we observed greater trust and trustworthiness when highly inaccurate gossip was present than when communication was impossible. This suggests that even inaccurate gossip induces a degree of reputational concern in gossip targets and some willingness among gossip recipients to discriminate between partners on the basis of the gossip they received. Thus, gossip need not be perfectly accurate to effectively induce cooperation.

Keywords: Gossip; Trust; Communication; Experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C93 D03 H41 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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