Sex Roles

, Volume 56, Issue 11–12, pp 781–791 | Cite as

Let’s Talk About Sex: A Study on the Recall of Gossip About Potential Mates and Sexual Rivals

  • Charlotte J. S. De Backer
  • Mark Nelissen
  • Maryanne L. Fisher
Original Article


Although there is an abundance of gossip research, little is known about the impact of individuals’ characteristics and their ability to recall gossip’s content. We concentrated on gossip related to mating reputation, and investigated the effects of individuals’ sex and relationship status when they are the subjects and receivers of such gossip. We presented 84 students with gossip-like stories, manipulated for content, and then provided a surprise recall test. We found that cues of attractiveness were recalled more for female characters, whereas cues of wealth status were recalled more for male characters. Gender differences in participants’ recall occurred for gossip about same-sex people who may represent rivals, but not for gossip about other-sex people who may represent potential mates. The relationship status of the subjects and receivers did not affect the recall rates. We discuss these findings within the conceptual framework offered by evolutionary psychology.


Gossip Human mate choice Attractiveness Wealth status 



This study was supported by grants awarded to Charlotte De Backer from the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders and the Belgian American Educational Foundation. We are grateful for their support. We thank Patrick Vyncke, Johan Braeckman and two anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier drafts of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charlotte J. S. De Backer
    • 1
  • Mark Nelissen
    • 2
  • Maryanne L. Fisher
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Media and CommunicationUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  3. 3.Department of PsychologySt. Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada

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