Periodic report on work performed from the beginning of the project till 31 May 2017 and main results achieved so far

We have performed theoretical and empirical work for the investigation of our main research questions following the working plan in seven subprojects.

1.      We have started to develop new theoretical foundations for the scientific study of gossip and reputation based on signaling theory, on the theory of indirect reciprocity, on the social embeddedness of interactions, and their relations to social order and cooperation. Desk research activities included literature review (in the form of reading groups).

2.      Besides theory development, we have designed, built, and analyzed agent-based models. Számadó, Szalai, and Scheuring (2016, PLOS One) have developed and analyzed simulation models for the investigation of the relationship between honest (dishonest) communication, reputation, and cooperation. They found that deception undermines the stability of cooperation established by indirect reciprocity and reputation mechanisms. Righi and Takács (2017, ECMS Proceedings) have analyzed different indirect reciprocity strategies that use local or global reputation information. They found that indirect reciprocity strategies built on local reputation information are more successful and able to maintain cooperation.

3.      We designed and run the first series of experiments that involved controlled forms of gossip and investigated its impact on cooperation using the classical Prisoner’s Dilemma game. We continued and designed the second experiments to test simple hypotheses about the relationship between gossip, reputation, and cooperation (with Flóra Samu and Szabolcs Számadó).

4.      We have started to conceptualize the ways how triadic network data, such as gossip, could be analyzed statistically in self-reported surveys about a certain period and in time-stamped relational event data.

5.      We have written a review chapter on gossip and reputation in the school context for the Handbook of Gossip and Reputation (Oxford University Press). We have utilized network panel data collected by our research group in primary and secondary school classes on gossip and reputation (with Laura Boldvai-Pethes and András Vörös). We have extended the primary school data gathering with two additional waves in 2016 and 2017. In our analyses, we found that reputational concerns play a strong role in the establishment of informal social order in the well-bounded communities of the classroom. Pál, Stadtfeld, Grow, and Takács (2016, Journal of Research on Adolescence) found that the discrepancy between direct status attributions (whom do individuals look up to) and the perceived status hierarchy plays a prominent role in the development of disliking and hate. Grow, Pál, and Takács (2016, Social Psychology Quarterly) and Kisfalusi, Janky, and Takács (submitted) found that informal communication in social networks is responsible for the ability perceptions of third-party individuals and these ability perceptions are easily generalized to gender and ethnic groups.

6.      We re-analyzed and newly gathered information on gossip and reputations in organizations (with Boróka Pápay, Eliza Bodor-Eranus, Eszter Vit, Márta Radó, Júlia Galántai, Laura Boldvai-Pethes, and Zsuzsanna Szvetelszky). We have approached several business organizations and have conducted surveys in five of them. Our preliminary analyses show the importance of wage perceptions on gossip and reputation (with Boróka Pápay); and the importance of opinion brokers (with Eliza Bodor-Eranus and Róbert Pethes).

7.      Self-reports and even ethnographic observations might largely be biased because of the confidentiality inherent in gossip. We therefore make a pioneering use of wearable devices (smartwatches) for gathering reliable information on social interactions. As planned, we have prepared and submitted a detailed description of the project to the Hungarian National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information requesting an ethical audit. As expected, after failed attempts we have gained access to a dormitory floor that is going to be the first field of our study. We have designed the functional requirements for a new smartwatch based application tool that we are going to use in our research. We openly advertised the job, selected and started to work with a professional developer. We have purchased the wearable devices following the public procurement rules. We have established a secure server connection for the storage and handling of the large amount of audio data. We have started preparations for automatic speech processing and manual transcription of text. We have hired a computational linguist (Martina Szabó), who started preparations for the text, topic, and discourse analyses (with Júlia Galántai, Bálint Kubik, and Boróka Pápay). Moreover, we have acquired a uniquely large corpus of spontaneous conversations in a closed small group that we are going to use for the same research purposes.