Competitive status signaling in peer-to-peer file-sharing networksEvolutionary Psychology 5(2): 363-382
Internet peer-to-peer file sharing is a contemporary example of asymmetrical sharing in which “altruists” (file uploaders) share unconditionally with non-reciprocating “free riders” (file downloaders). Those who upload digital media files over the Internet risk prosecution for copyright infringement, and are more vulnerable to computer hackers and viruses. In an analysis of file-sharing behavior among university undergraduates (N=331), we found that significantly more males than females engaged in risky file uploading. Contrary to expectations, uploaders were not concerned about their reputation online and file sharers were not interested in identifying or chatting with uploaders while online. Among uploaders, males were more likely than females to be identified as uploaders by friends, to discuss uploading and to upload in the presence of peers. We interpret these results using costly-signaling theory, and argue that uploading is a costly signal in which males engage in avoidable risk taking as a means to compete for status among peers in social contexts other than the Internet.
unconditional generosity, risk taking, costly signaling theory, sex differences