Mark V. Pezzo, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Psychology
Van Hilliard, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Psychology
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Past research on gossip has primarily examined influences such as personal anxiety, personal significance, credulity, and ambiguity. Some studies have examined self-esteem of the participants, but only trait self-esteem, the amount of self-esteem an individual has in general. This study focuses on one's current or "state" self-esteem. It was predicted that with lowered state self-esteem the participants would both desire to seek rumor and gossip information as well as transmit it. State self-esteem was manipulated by giving false feedback to the participants after having taken a bogus test that ostensibly measured their ability to get along and work well with others. Participants (n=72) were randomly given either false positive feedback stating they would work very well with others, or false feedback stating they would make other people uncomfortable. After being given the feedback a questionnaire was administered asking about their desire to obtain information labeled confidential, and about their frustration at having to keep it to themselves. Although the manipulation was effective at causing subjects to feel accepted or rejected, it did not significantly affect their desire to obtain or transmit gossip. Most gender differences were non-significant. Interestingly, regardless of gender, participants consistently showed more interest in reading and talking about negative topics rather than positive topics.
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Pehl, Sandra Pacheco, "The Effects of Lowered State Self-Esteem on the Desire to Collect and Transmit Gossip and Rumor" (2005). USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate). 55.