Francesca Giardini (ICS/University of Groningen)
14 March 2019 @ 14:00 - 15:30
“Gossip, reputation and sustainable cooperation”
From The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, to products’ reviews on eBay, or to recommendations on TripAdvisor, we are immersed in a network of evaluations about individuals, places, goods, firms and institutions. The ensuing reputations are meant to help us understand individuals’ qualities or predict their behaviour, on the basis of their underlying nature or past actions. Although reputation can have a tenuous connection to reality, it has been advocated as an effective and inexpensive instrument of social control in human societies.
One of the crucial tenets of many theories of reputation is that the stability of cooperation is conditional on the fact that reputation can track behaviour with the same accuracy of direct experience. Unfortunately, direct experience is seldom available, and reputations emerge not from what we do, but from people talking about what we do.
In this talk, I will present and discuss lab experiments and agent-based simulation studies indicating that dynamic transmission of incomplete knowledge, like in human gossip, can support cooperation, but only under specific conditions. I will also argue that in the human language-mediated reputational system, reputations are continuously constructed and reconstructed. Reputation is not the result of a single behavior, and opaqueness and uncertainty in transmission should be considered for a better understanding of the way in which reputation can be used to support cooperation in groups, communities and organizations.