How gossip can promote cooperation

Paper of an international group of scientists awarded with Ig Nobel Peace Prize

The Ig Nobel Peace Prize 2022 is awarded for a paper on gossip that was authored by a team of scientists from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, UK and USA. The paper is purely theoretical and describes how interdependencies among agents in the so-called gossip triad (i.e. gossip sender, gossip target, and gossip receiver) lead to different gossip strategies. Based on their model, the authors make predictions about when information transmitted via gossip will be honest or dishonest and when such information will promote cooperative behavior.
One of the co-authors from Utrecht University, Wojtek Przepiorka, studies different mechanisms that can promote cooperation in humans. “People usually care about their reputation and what others think and say about them. Gossip is an informal yet powerful mechanism of social control that incentivizes people to behave cooperatively and in line with common social norms” Wojtek says.

I am proud of being one of the laureates this year, because the prize recognizes creativity and humor, two dwindling ingredients of scientific inquiry in times of crises and impact.

The Ig Nobel Prize is awarded to recognize unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prize is awarded annually in ten categories. The award ceremony takes place online (as in the past two years) and can be watched here.

A related press release from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Ig Nobel prize for research on gossip