Gossip as an Intrasexual Competition Strategy: Sex Differences in Gossip Frequency, Content, and Attitudes
- 2.1k Downloads
From an evolutionary perspective, gossip has been considered a putative intrasexual competition strategy that is used to vie for mates and resources linked to reproductive success. To date, no study has directly examined the relations between intrasexual competitiveness, reported tendency to gossip, and attitudes toward gossiping. Limited empirical work has also focused on whether gossip frequency, gossip content, and gossip attitudes correspond to women’s and men’s divergent intrasexual competition strategies and evolved mating preferences. In a sample of 290 heterosexual young adults, we found that intrasexual competition positively predicted reported gossip frequency and favorable attitudes toward gossiping. Additionally, women reported a greater tendency to gossip in comparison to men, particularly about physical appearance and social information, whereas men reported gossiping more about achievement. Women also reported greater enjoyment of, and perceived more value in, gossiping than men. Collectively, these findings provide empirical support for the hypothesis that gossip is an intrasexual competition tactic that, by and large, corresponds to women’s and men’s evolved mate preferences and differential mate competition strategies.
KeywordsGossip Intrasexual competition Mate preferences Sex differences
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Abed, R., Mehta, S., Figueredo, A. J., Aldridge, S., Balson, H., Meyer, C., & Palmer, R. (2012). Eating disorders and intrasexual competition: testing an evolutionary hypothesis among young women. Scientific World Journal, 2012, 290813. https://doi.org/10.1100/2012/290813.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- American Psychological Association. (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC.Google Scholar
- Arnocky, S., & Vaillancourt, T. (2017). Sexual competition among women: a review of the theory and supporting evidence. In M. L. Fisher (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of women and competition (pp. 1–31). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Barkow, J. H. (1992). Beneath new culture is old psychology: gossip and social stratification. In L. Cosmides & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind: evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 627–637). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Benenson, J. F. (2013). The development of human female competition: allies and adversaries. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 368 (1631). doi: https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2013.0079.
- Benenson, J. F., Markovits, H., Hultgren, B., Nguyen, T., Bullock, G., & Wrangham, R. (2013). Social exclusion: more important to human females than males. PloS One, 8(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055851.
- Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: an evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100(2), 204–232. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.100.2.204
- Clutton-Brock, T. H. (1991). The evolution of parental care. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Crick, N. R., & Grotpeter, J. K. (1995). Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment. Child Development, 66(3), 710–722. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1995.tb00900.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Dunbar, R. I. M. (1996). Groups, gossip, and the evolution of language. In A. Schmitt, K. Atzwanger, K. Grammer, & K. Schäfer (Eds.), New aspects of human ethology (pp. 77–89). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Eckert, P. (1990). Cooperative competition in adolescent “girl talk”. Discourse Processes, 13(1), 91–122. https://doi.org/10.1080/01638539009544748
- Eder, D., & Enke, J. L. (1991). The structure of gossip: opportunities and constraints on collective expression among adolescents. American Sociological Review, 494–508 Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096270.
- Hess, N. H., & Hagen, E. H. (2006). Sex differences in indirect aggression: psychological evidence from young adults. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27(3), 231–245. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2005.11.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hill, S. E., & Durante, K. M. (2011). Courtship, competition, and the pursuit of attractiveness: mating goals facilitate health-related risk taking and strategic risk suppression in women. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 383–394. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167210395603.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Klomek, A. B., Marrocco, F., Kleinman, M., Schonfeld, I. S., & Gould, M. S. (2007). Bullying, depression, and suicidality in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46(1), 40–49. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.chi.0000242237.84925.18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lagerspetz, K. M., Björkqvist, K., & Peltonen, T. (1988). Is indirect aggression typical of females? Gender differences in aggressiveness in 11‐to 12‐year‐old children. Aggressive Behavior, 14(6), 403–414. https://doi.org/10.1002/1098-2337(1988)14:6<403::AIDAB2480140602>3.0.CO;2-D.
- Leaper, C., & Holliday, H. (1995). Gossip in same-gender and cross-gender friends’ conversations. Personal Relationships, 2(3), 237–246. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6811.1995.tb00089.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Litman, J. A., Huang, C., & Chang, H. (2009). Development and validation of a Chinese version of the attitudes towards gossip scale. Journal of Psychology in Chinese Societies, 10(2), 131–150 Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263853280_Development_and_Validation_of_a_Chinese_Version_of_the_Attitudes_Towards_Gossip_Scale.Google Scholar
- McAndrew, F. T. (2016). Gossip is a social skill—not a character flaw. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/out-the-ooze/201601/gossip-is-social-skill-not-character-flaw
- McAndrew, F. T. (2017). How “the gossip” became a woman and how “gossip” became her weapon of choice. In M. L. Fishers (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of women and competition (pp. 191–205). New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199376377.013.13.Google Scholar
- McAndrew, F. T., & Milenkovic, M. A. (2002). Of tabloids and family secrets: the evolutionary psychology of gossip. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32(5), 1064–1082. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2002.tb00256.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Nevo, O., Nevo, B., & Derech-Zehavi, A. (1993). The development of the tendency to gossip questionnaire: construct and concurrent validity for a sample of Israeli college students. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 53, 973–981. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013164493053004010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Österman, K., Björkqvist, K., Lagerspetz, K. M., Kaukiainen, A., Landau, S. F., Frączek, A., & Caprara, G. V. (1998). Cross-cultural evidence of female indirect aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 24(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1098-2337(1998)24:1<1::AID-AB1 >3.0. CO;2-R.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Owens, L., Shute, R., & Slee, P. (2000). “Guess what I just heard!”: indirect aggression among teenage girls in Australia. Aggressive Behavior, 26(1), 67–83. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1098-2337 (2000)26:1<67::AID-AB6>3.0.CO;2-C.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Paulhus, D. L. (1991). Measurement and control of response bias. In: J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver, & L. S. Wrightsman (Eds.), Measures of social psychological attitudes, Vol. 1. Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes (pp. 17–59). https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-590241-0.50006-X.
- Schmitt, D. P., & Buss, D. M. (1996). Strategic self-promotion and competitor derogation: sex and context effects on the perceived effectiveness of mate attraction tactics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(6), 1185–1204 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8667162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Shackelford, T. K. (1997). Perceptions of betrayal and the design of the mind. In J. A. Simpson & D. T. Kenrick (Eds.), Evolutionary social psychology (pp. 73–107). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Stockley, P., & Campbell, A. (2013). Female competition and aggression: interdisciplinary perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 368(1631). https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2013.0073.
- Symons, D. (1995). Beauty is in the adaptations of the beholder: the evolutionary psychology of human female sexual attractiveness. In P. R. Abramson & S. D. Pinkerton (Eds.), Sexual nature, sexual culture (pp. 80–118). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1992). The psychological foundations of culture. In J. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind (pp. 19–136). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Trivers, R. L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man (pp. 136–179). Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.Google Scholar
- Vaillancourt, T. (2005). Indirect aggression among humans: social construct or evolutionary adaptation. In R. E. Tremblay, W. W. Hartup, & J. Archer (Eds.), Developmental origins of aggression (pp. 158–177). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Vaillancourt, T. (2013). Do human females use indirect aggression as an intrasexual competition strategy? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 368(1631). https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2013.0080.
- Vaillancourt, T., Miller, J. L., & Sharma, A. (2010). “Tripping the prom queen”: female intrasexual competition and indirect aggression. In K. Österman (Ed.), Indirect and direct aggression (pp. 17–31). New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
- Walsh, A., & Yun, I. (2016). Evoked culture and evoked nature: the promise of gene-culture co-evolution theory for sociology. Frontiers in Sociology, 1. https://doi.org/10.3389/fsoc.2016.00008.