The Psychology of Gossip
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Brownlie, C. (2014) The Psychology of Gossip, no. 40.
Pervious research into social cooperation has found that faces associated with negative evaluative information are better remembered than faces associated with positive evaluative information. Cosmides and Tooby (1989; 1992) attribute this memory advantage to the possession of a cheater detection module. This domain specific memory module recognises faces of individuals who may exploit others in instances of social interaction. However Bell and Buchner (2008) proposed that this memory advantage may be a result of a more general memory mechanism. This study tested the effect of positive and negative behavioural information on the remembrance of neutral faces. By presenting participants with 20 faces either associated with positive/neutral information or negative/neutral information, memory could be tested after completing matched-pairs games with the faces previously seen. It was hypothesised that gossip, in both forms, would influence memory more than no gossip (control), and that negative gossip would be remember better than positive gossip. These hypotheses were unsupported, as no source memory effect was found. However person likability was significant for each condition. Possible explanations for these findings and limitations of the study are discussed, as well as possible future research directions.