Saying Good and Bad Things Behind Someone’s Back or to Their Face

Perceived Source Selflessness and Trust in Information Matter When the Information Is Positive


  • Katarzyna Cantarero
  • Katarzyna Byrka
  • Wijnand A.P. Van Tilburg
  • Agnieszka Komorowska


This study explores the consequences of gossiping on impression formation as compared to the consequences of direct communication in the presence of the target individual. Specifically, we focus on perceived source selflessness and trust in the information conveyed about the target individual as important factors for impression formation. In an internet-based study, participants (N = 155) evaluated descriptions of target individuals presented as gossip (spoken outside the target individual’s presence), as direct communication (spoken in the presence of the target individual) or without any information about the source. Analyses yielded no significant differences between experimental conditions on the impression of the target individual. However, we found that trust in information mediated the relation between perceived source selflessness and the general impression of the target individual, yet only when the information about the target individual is positive.