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While physical aggression as a form of competition is well known, gossip is a form of competition too, one with significant potential to harm someone’s reputation. Over the last 20 years, Nicole Hess has studied gossip in humans from small scale hunter-gatherers, to online international populations, to college sororities. Each of her published papers delves a little deeper into her theory of “informational warfare.” Her most recent paper shows, among other things, that gossip is greater when the stakes are higher and that close friends tend to deter negative gossip about a member of their own group. Her next project involves an experiment to determine when both men and women turn to gossip over physical aggression.
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