Perceiving Personality Through the Grapevine: A Network Approach to Reputations


Reputations are critical in human social life: they allow people to share and act on information about one another, even when they have never met. Reputations can be conceptualized as information about a target person that is stored in networks of perceivers and transmitted through either direct interaction or hearsay. We present a novel paradigm that integrates the network approach with interpersonal perception research. We apply that paradigm to study the consensus, accuracy, positivity bias, and consequences of personality trait information in hearsay-based reputations. In 2 preregistered studies (N = 260 and 369), we created naturalistic micronetworks in the lab in which participants interacted and got to know one another, then later described each other to naïve third parties. Across studies, we use the extended Social Accuracy Model (Wessels, Zimmermann, Biesanz, & Leising, 2020) and an extension of the domain-wise correlational approach (Kenny, 1994). Hearsay-based reputations are about as positively biased as direct reputations. They showed strong consensus (agreement) with direct reputations and modest accuracy, suggesting that they can consolidate around an inaccurate representation. Perceivers’ extraversion was associated with more biased hearsay reputations. Experimentally manipulating the context of the hearsay exchange had no detectable impact on hearsay consensus or accuracy. Hearsay reputations were consequential, affecting the extent to which perceivers thought targets would be good leaders or friends. These results provide initial insights into reputation networks and suggest several important future directions for the network approach to reputations. We also present open materials and data analysis software for others to extend the reputations-as-networks approach.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Cory K. Costello
Postdoctoral Fellow in Emotion and Self-Control Lab

Personality/Social Psychology PhD interested personality, reputation, and social networks in offline and online environments.