"Someone told me": Preemptive reputation protection in communication

Giardini, F., Fitneva, S. A. & Tamm, A., 24-Apr-2019, In : PLoS ONE. 14, 4, 15 p., e0200883.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Information sharing can be regarded as a form of cooperative behavior protected by the work of a reputation system. Yet, deception in communication is common. The research examined the possibility that speakers use epistemic markers to preempt being seen as uncooperative even though they in fact are. Epistemic markers convey the speakers’ certainty and involvement in the acquisition of the information. When speakers present a lie as indirectly acquired or uncertain, they gain if the lie is believed and likely do not suffer if it is discovered. In our study, speakers of English and Italian (where epistemic markers were presented lexically) and of Estonian and Turkish (where they were presented grammatically through evidentials) had to imagine being a speaker in a conversation and choose a response to a question. The response options varied 1) the truth of the part of the response addressing the question at issue and 2) whether the epistemic marker indicated that the speaker had acquired the information directly or indirectly. Across languages, if participants chose to tell a lie, they were likely to present it with an indirect epistemic marker, thus providing evidence for preemptive action accompanying uncooperative behavior. For English and Italian participants, this preemptive action depended respectively on resource availability and relationship with the addressee, suggesting cultural variability in the circumstances that trigger it.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0200883
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24-Apr-2019



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