Gossip and the Management of Reputation: the Intersection between the Social, the Natural and the Computational Sciences

da 26 Ago 2013 - 09:54 a 30 Ago 2013 - 09:54
Lorentz Center: International Center for workshops in the Sciences, Leiden (the Netherlands)

Gossip and reputation management are essential features of our world. Their investigation is part of the frontiers of research in at least three scientific domains: the social, the natural and the computational sciences. Understanding the dynamics, evolution and change of social information transmission requires a truly inter-disciplinary scientific effort. 

Aim of this workshop is to define an “atlas” of research on gossip and reputation, in which mainland, i.e., shared concepts that overcome disciplinary boundaries, and detached territories, i.e., field-specific aspects, are explored and defined. The resulting map will be used to lay the foundation for new models and theories of gossip and reputation management, and to test their validity across boundaries between disciplines. For more information see 

The workshop will be highly interactive and it will be structured around working groups which are expected to work towards the definition of “work packages” which will cover the different levels (individual, inter-individual, group, intergroup, societal), the relation between the levels (micro-macro links), as well as data, methods and tools. 

In order to be able to arrange group work we ask our participants to send us (Francesca Giardini - francesca.giardini@istc.cnr.it ) an abstract (500-1000 words) of their work in which they clearly identify key problems in their research on gossip and reputation management and they indicate their interest in one or more of the following themes that will be used to orient group work:

  • Conceptual level (Does “gossip” and “reputation management” have the same meaning in different disciplines? Is it possible to elaborate unambiguous formal definitions and operationalizations of these concepts? How can we develop shared models and inter-disciplinary theories? What are the ultimate and proximate explanations of reputation and gossip?)
  • Individual and inter-individual level (What are the proximate mechanisms of gossip? Are people with specific characteristics – like age, sex, personality – more or less prone to gossip? To what degree do these factors affect reputation management strategies? What do we know about the psychology of gossip and reputation: what motivates people to share confidential information about others? What is the role of emotions, of rational calculation, of group pressure? Which qualities of relationships/interdependencies affect gossip and reputation management? )
  • Group level (Which characteristics at the group level affect gossip and reputation management, and how? Which types of group level outcomes are affected by gossip and reputation management: e.g. group performance, coordination, collective action? How to account for roles and relationships? How does partner selection accounts for the stability of reputation within groups?)·         Inter-group level (How is credible reputational information disseminated across groups? How gossip and reputation-management work in competition and cooperation between groups? Is it possible to identify specifically inter-group features of gossip and reputation management?)
  • Societal level (What are the societal effects of implementing easily accessible reputation management systems? Are our societies changing in response to massive amounts of available social information? How are social media changing the way in which we conceptualize and use gossip and reputation?) 


In addition to selecting one or more levels of interest, we also ask participants to draft their abstracts in order to answer the following questions:

  • what kind of outcomes are studied in your research?
  • how is gossip and reputation management operationalized in your work?
  • what kind of data do you use or plan to use (available datasets, experimental data, observational data)?
  • what kind of theories and mechanisms do you refer to?
  • in which disciplines is your work grounded?  


The levels and the corresponding questions are indicative and they can be revised on the bases of participants' suggestions. Moreover, the interdisciplinary nature of the workshop means that questions at each level can be addressed using different methods (theoretical and conceptual analysis, laboratory experiments, online experiments, formal and computational modelling, agent-based simulation, social network analysis, survey, qualitative , etc.). Since these themes are intertwined, we plan discussions within groups to become starting points for plenary discussions, in which different views, perspectives and methodologies will be assessed. With this structure, we aim to provide participants with time to have comprehensive discussions about specific issues, but also with the opportunity of put their results in a broader perspective.

Scientific organizers:

  • Francesca Giardini (Rome, Italy)   
  • Rafael Wittek (Groningen, The Netherlands)