When and why does gossip increase prosocial behavior?

Annika S. Nieper*, Bianca Beersma, Maria T.M. Dijkstra, Gerben A. van Kleef

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Understanding when people behave prosocially is integral to solving many challenges in groups and society. Gossip–the exchange of information about absent others—has been proposed to increase prosocial behavior, but findings are mixed. In this review, we illuminate the relationship between gossip and prosocial behavior, reconcile disparate findings, and suggest new directions for research. Our review reveals that gossip increases prosocial behavior to the degree that a) it is accurate rather than inaccurate, b) targets are interdependent with, rather than independent from, gossip receivers, and c) targets anticipate that they might be gossiped about, rather than actually experience negative gossip. We discuss implications of our reviewed findings for understanding when gossip serves to uphold desirable behavior and when it inadvertently engenders undesirable behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-320
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent opinion in psychology
Early online date12 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by an ERC grant (Number: 771391 - FORCE–OF–GOSSIP) awarded to B. Beersma. We thank Martina Testori and Elena Martinescu for comments on a draft of this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


  • Accuracy
  • Experienced
  • Gossip
  • Interdependence
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Reputational concern
  • Threat of gossip


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