Don’t tell anyone! Two Experiments on Gossip Conversations

Jenny Brusk1,  Ron Artstein2,  David Traum2
1School of informatics and humanities, University of Skövde, P.O. Box 408, 541 28 Skövde, Sweden, 2USC Institute for Creative Technologies, 13274 Fiji Way Marina del Rey, CA 90292


The purpose of this study is to get a working definition that matches people’s intuitive notion of gossip and is sufficiently precise for computational implementation. We conducted two experiments investigating what type of conversations people intuitively understand and interpret as gossip, and whether they could identify three proposed constituents of gossip conversations: third person focus, pejorative evaluation and substantiating behavior. The results show that (1) conversations are very likely to be considered gossip if all elements are present, no intimate relationships exist between the participants, and the person in focus is unambiguous. (2) Conversations that have at most one gossip element are not considered gossip. (3) Conversations that lack one or two elements or have an ambiguous element lead to inconsistent judgments.