Did You Hear The Latest? Gossip Is Good For You
If you get a thrill hearing the latest dirt on Hollywood movie stars, your next-door neighbor or your former best friend, you’re in for some good news. According to a new study conducted by the University of California, Berkley, gossip is good for you.
Gossip – the word itself that, in most instances, connotes the passing on of salacious and not-so-flattering information – is apparently not so bad after all. Robb Willer, one of the coauthors of the aforementioned study notes that “Gossip…plays a critical role in the maintenance of social order.” Further, being the bearer of not-so-good news may actually be therapeutic to the messenger.
Specifically, the study found that volunteers’ heart rates increased when they witnessed someone behaving badly however the increase seemed to be tempered by the volunteers’ ability to then pass on the information to others.
“Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip,” said Willer.
This particular study focused on a form of gossip labeled as “prosocial” gossip, which serves the function of “warning others of untrustworthy or dishonest people.” This is in opposition to the more voyeuristic rumor-mongering that many of us secretly enjoy, especially when it has to do with the likes of celebrities, such as Charlie Sheen, Kim Kardashian and others.
In a series of four experiments, researchers observed games in which the volunteer subjects’ mutual generosity was measured in relation to how many dollars or points they shared. In the first experiment 51 volunteers were hooked up to heart-rate monitors and then were asked to observe the scores of two people playing the game. After two rounds, it was clear to the volunteer observers that one player was hoarding all of the points and not playing by the rules.Continued on the next page