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Being in the Know

Social Network Analysis of Gossip and Friendship on a College Campus

Abstract

Gossip (evaluative talk about others) is ubiquitous. Gossip allows important rules to be clarified and reinforced, and it allows individuals to keep track of their social networks while strengthening their bonds to the group. The purpose of this study is to decipher the nature of gossip and how it relates to friendship connections. To measure how gossip relates to friendship, participants from men’s and women’s collegiate competitive rowing (crew) teams (N = 44) noted their friendship connections and their tendencies to gossip about each of their teammates. Using social network analysis, we found that the crew members’ friend group connectedness significantly correlated with their positive and negative gossip network involvement. Higher connectedness among friends was associated with less involvement in spreading negative gossip and/or being a target of negative gossip. More central connectedness to the friend group was associated with more involvement in spreading positive gossip and/or being a target of positive gossip. These results suggest that the spread of both positive and negative gossip may influence and be influenced by friendship connections in a social network.

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Data Availability

All data and scripts for this study are available at: https://osf.io/95q82/

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all participants; Psi Chi, The International Honor Society in Psychology, for their support to Meltem Yucel; and the Franklin & Marshall College Committee on Grants for funding to Rebecca Glass. We would also like to thank Allan Clifton for his very generous guidance with the study, and Alex Christensen for guidance with statistical analyses.

Funding

This work was supported by Psi Chi, The International Honor Society in Psychology and the Franklin & Marshall College Committee on Grants.

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Correspondence to Meltem Yucel.

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The questionnaire and methodology for this study was approved by the Human Research Ethics committee of the Franklin & Marshall College, on 02/07/2017 for the application #R_z8tMp5lSWgH7STL.

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Yucel, M., Sjobeck, G.R., Glass, R. et al. Being in the Know. Hum Nat 32, 603–621 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-021-09409-5

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Keywords

  • Friendship
  • Gossip
  • Negative gossip
  • Positive gossip
  • Social network analysis