Preschoolers affect others' reputations through prosocial gossip

Jan M. Engelmann, Esther Herrmann, Michael Tomasello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Providing evaluative information to others about absent third parties helps them to identify cooperators and avoid cheaters. Here, we show that 5-year-olds, but not 3-year-olds, reliably engage in such prosocial gossip. In an experimental setting, 5-year-old children spontaneously offered relevant reputational information to guide a peer towards a cooperative partner. Three-year-old children offered such evaluative information only rarely, although they still showed a willingness to inform in a non-evaluative manner. A follow-up study revealed that one component involved in this age difference is children's developing ability to provide justifications. The current results extend previous work on young children's tendency to manage their own reputation by showing that preschoolers also influence others' reputations via gossip.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-460
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Volume34
Issue number3
Early online date1 Aug 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016

Cite this