As the complexity due to structural embeddedness cannot be fully incorporated into simple analytical models, we will design and develop agent-based models (ABMs) to analyze the relationship between honest/dishonest communication, reputation, and cooperation.
We will move beyond previous conceptualizations of gossip, which neglected that the gossip triad is embedded in the social structure and occurs as an event that is often just an element in a longer information chain. As a consequence of gossip from i to j about o, the reputation of o decreases (at least subjectively from the receiver j’s point of view). Meanwhile, assuming that the gossip was appreciated by the receiver j, the subjective evaluation of the sender i is improved. These reputational shifts are represented as vertical changes of positions of i and o. Moreover, gossip flows through the social network over time. The information heard by the receiver j in t1 is passed further to a receiver k at distance 2 from the source i. Meanwhile, the sender i, expecting further reputational benefits, passes the bad gossip about the object o on to a new receiver l. These dynamics create a complex system of relationships, especially because receivers might hear the same gossip from different sources (it is very likely especially in closed cliques) or might hear contradicting information about the object from various sources. As a result, the reputation of the object (but also of the sender) is subject to “checks and balances” repeatedly. In addition, we explain how honest and dishonest (strategic) gossip contributes to the legitimization of reputations and how it enhances cooperation if agents play the Prisoner’s Dilemma as a model of cooperation. We are planning to advance our previous work and aim to answer the following research questions with agent-based simulation models: (i) how does the costs and risks of gossip relate to reputation in general and to the honesty of communication in particular; (ii) how does the topology of the network influence the robustness of reputations; (iii) under which conditions can stability (social order) and cooperation co-evolve as a result of gossip activity.