NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Worried about what people are saying about you? Concerns about gossip could influence behavior, including generosity, researchers said.
"As it turns out, the act of gossip can indeed be quite powerful," said Jared Piazza of Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Piazza and Jesse M. Beringa studied the reactions of 72 college students who were asked to distribute tokens with a monetary value between themselves and someone else.
Half of the group were also told their decision would be discussed with a third party.
"Participants who were told that the receiver would be communicating their economic decision with the third party were significantly more generous in their allocations of the tokens than participants who were not led to believe that their decisions would be discussed," Piazza and Beringa said in the study published in the journal Human Behavior.
They added that the most beneficial strategy from an economic standpoint would have been for a student to allocate all 10 tokens to him or herself, but the threat of gossip seemed to have swayed their decision.
Although gender did not play a major role in the study, men were slightly more generous than women.
"Allocations of males were, on average, slightly greater than allocations of females, although there were almost twice as many female participants," the researchers added.
Reporting by Julie Mollins; editing by Patricia Reaney