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Boehm believes that small-scale foraging societies such as those typical during human prehistory emphasized an egalitarianism that suppressed internal competition and promoted consensus seeking in a way that made the success of one’s group extremely important to one’s own fitness. These social pressures discouraged free riders and cheaters and encouraged altruists. In such societies, the manipulation of public opinion through gossip, ridicule and ostracism became a key way of keeping potentially dominant group members in check.

A Social Comparison Account of Gossip. S. R. Wert and P. Salovey in Review of General Psychology, Vol. 8, No. 2, pages 122–137; June 2004. Who Do We Tell and Whom Do We Tell On? Gossip as a Strategy for Status Enhancement. F. T. McAndrew, E. K. Bell and C. M. Garcia in Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 37, No. 7, pages 1562–1577; July 2007. Celebrities: From Teachers to Friends. A Test of Two Hypotheses on the Adaptiveness of Celebrity Gossip. S. De Backer, M. Nelissen, P. Vyncke, J.

Yet almost nobody has such a belief. Back when you were still in diapers, you learned that people didn’t cease to exist simply because you couldn’t see them. ” Such an offline social awareness leads us to tacitly assume that the people we know are somewhere doing something. As I’m writing this article in Belfast, for example, my mind’s eye conjures up my friend Ginger in New Orleans walking her poodle or playfully bickering with her husband, things that I know she does routinely. As I’ve argued in my 2006 Behavioral and Brain Sciences article, “The Folk Psychology of Souls,” human cognition is not equipped to update the list of players in our complex social ros- w w w.

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[Magazine] Scientific American Mind. Vol. 19. No 5

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