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How do rumors travel and spread?

Did you ever think about gossip as a complex social activity? Chatting is one of the most universal social behaviour and it is not just a frivolous entertainment. At ISTC the Laboratory of Agent-Based Social Simulation (LABSS) is developing computational models to understand the cognitive basis of gossip. 

Why do we like speaking ill of people? Where does the irresistible tendency of buzzing about things come from? The answers may lie in our cognitive processes. Exchanging social information is fundamental for many activities, from partner selection to group cohesion. Gossip has therefore deep roots in our social behaviour, since what people believe about others is crucial in order to establish relationships.

At ISTC the Laboratory of Agent Based Social Simulation (LABSS) studies gossip as one of the ingredients of society. The group performed simulative experiments on a computational system reproducing agents' behaviour during informational cheating. This approach belongs to the multi-agent-based social simulation, which applies artificial models to study the complex mechanisms of social and cognitive artifacts.

The analysis of these simulations revealed that gossip is deeply related with an important cognitive aspect of humans: reputation. The internal representation people have of themselves and of others plays a crucial role during the selection and communication of information. LABSS focused on reputation as both a property of agents and a process of transmission of beliefs about this property. Gossiping means discussing the transmissibility of reputation, and this process takes place during many decision-making processes. It is by moving across personal beliefs about people's reputation that rumors travel and spread. 

Contact: Rosaria Conte

ISTC Group: Laboratory of Agent-Based Social Simulation

Relevant Publications

Quattrociocchi, W., Conte, R., Lodi, E. (2011), Opinions Manipulation: Media, Power and Gossip. Advances in Complex Systems, World Scientific Publishing Company. 

Giardini, F., Conte, R. (2011), Gossip for Social Control in Natural and Artificial Societies. Simulation: Transactions of the Society for Modeling and Simulation International.