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Bless Her Heart!: Does Apparent Concern Help Women in Reputational Competition?

Research on women's competition, indirect aggression, and gossip has uncovered a perplexing pattern: women deny their own competitiveness and gossip, but openly acknowledge that of other women. The current investigation proposed one solution to this paradox: women's unawareness of their competitive and malicious motivations grants a competitive advantage in female intrasexual reputation competition. Gossipers who express concern for their targets can preserve their own social desirability while simultaneously transmitting information that harms their target's reputation. Two online studies tested this theory by examining the prevalence and efficacy of concern motivations within gossip. Study 1 tested the prediction that women would assert greater concern relative to malicious motivations for gossiping by comparing male and female participants' perceptions of their own and others' social conversation motivations. Indeed, compared to men, women endorsed stronger concern motivations and lower reputation-harming motivations when gossiping. Moreover, women were especially likely to assert benevolent intentions when discussing same-sex peers compared to men, suggesting these motivations characterize women's gossip about same-sex rivals. Study 2 tested the competitive efficacy of ostensible concern motivations. Male and female participants evaluated female gossipers and their targets across three hypothetical gossip scenarios. The framing of the gossiper's statement was experimentally manipulated such that she delivered her information with concern, with malice, or neutrally. Consistent with predictions, gossip delivered with concern enhanced perceptions of the gossiper's trustworthiness, interpersonal desirability, and romantic desirability compared to gossip delivered neutrally or maliciously. Taken together, these findings suggest women's belief in their prosocial motivations for gossiping is a socially advantageous strategy for female intrasexual reputation competition. / A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Psychology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. / Spring Semester 2018. / February 12, 2018. / Female competition, Gossip, Intrasexual competition, Morality, Prosociality, Self-deception / Includes bibliographical references. / Roy F. Baumeister, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Jon K. Maner, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Laura Arpan, University Representative; Andrea Meltzer, Committee Member; Paul Conway, Committee Member; Jesse Cougle, Committee Member.
ContributorsReynolds, Tania A. (Tania Arline) (author), Baumeister, Roy F. (professor co-directing dissertation), Maner, Jon K. (professor co-directing dissertation), Arpan, Laura M. (university representative), Meltzer, Andrea L (committee member), Conway, Paul (committee member), Cougle, Jesse R., 1975- (committee member), Florida State University (degree granting institution), College of Arts and Sciences (degree granting college), Department of Psychology (degree granting departmentdgg)
PublisherFlorida State University
Source SetsFlorida State University
LanguageEnglish, English
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeText, text, doctoral thesis
Format1 online resource (58 pages), computer, application/pdf

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