USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate)

First Advisor

Mark V. Pezzo, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Psychology

Second Advisor

Van Hilliard, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Psychology


University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Document Type


Date Available


Publication Date


Date Issued



Past research on gossip has primarily examined influences such as personal anxiety, personal significance, credulity, and ambiguity. Some studies have examined self-esteem of the participants, but only trait self-esteem, the amount of self-esteem an individual has in general. This study focuses on one's current or "state" self-esteem. It was predicted that with lowered state self-esteem the participants would both desire to seek rumor and gossip information as well as transmit it. State self-esteem was manipulated by giving false feedback to the participants after having taken a bogus test that ostensibly measured their ability to get along and work well with others. Participants (n=72) were randomly given either false positive feedback stating they would work very well with others, or false feedback stating they would make other people uncomfortable. After being given the feedback a questionnaire was administered asking about their desire to obtain information labeled confidential, and about their frustration at having to keep it to themselves. Although the manipulation was effective at causing subjects to feel accepted or rejected, it did not significantly affect their desire to obtain or transmit gossip. Most gender differences were non-significant. Interestingly, regardless of gender, participants consistently showed more interest in reading and talking about negative topics rather than positive topics.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Honors Program, University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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