Gossip and competitive altruism support cooperation in a Public Good Game Articles uri icon

publication date

  • November 2021

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 8


  • 1838


  • 376

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0962-8436

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1471-2970


  • When there is an opportunity to gain a positive reputation, individuals are more willing to sacrifice their immediate self-interest. Partner choice creates opportunities for competitive altruism, i.e. individuals compete to be regarded as more generous and to be chosen for future partnerships. Tests of the competitive altruism hypothesis have focused so far on reputation based on direct observation, whereas the role of gossip has not been theoretically and empirically addressed. Partner choice can create an incentive to cooperate and to send truthful messages, but it can also work in the opposite direction. In order to understand the consequences of partner choice on cooperation and gossip, we designed an experimental study in which participants played a sequence of Public Goods games and gossip rounds. In our two treatments, we observed that cooperation increased when there was an opportunity to be selected, but also that cooperators sent more honest messages than defectors, and that this strategy was prevalent in the treatment in which inter-group competition was implemented. We also found evidence that participants detached themselves from the information more often when lying. Taken together, our study fills a theoretical and empirical gap by showing that partner choice increases both cooperation and honesty of gossip.


  • Mathematics


  • cooperation; competitive altruism; gossip; reputation; honesty