Table of contents:
- Gossip is common and not harmful, new research suggests
- The scientific definition of gossip is that it is talking about an absent person
- In our study, we found that there is very little evidence that women wash bones more than men
- Researchers note another positive side of gossip: it serves a moral function. They show what behavior is considered right or wrong in the culture, and can also be a kind of punishment for bad behavior. Therefore, even if people spread “bad rumors,” they have an important function
Video: Good News About Gossip. Why Is Washing Bones Useful? Research, Society
2023 Author: Oswald Adamson | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 20:18
Gossip is common and not harmful, new research suggests
Gossip has a bad reputation. When we gossip, we feel guilty. And if we google "quotes about gossip", we find out that gossips are immoral and stupid people: "Rumors are born of hatred, spread by fools, and idiots believe in them", "Gossip dies when it gets into the ears of a sage."
However, most research suggests that gossiping is perfectly normal. According to our research with Dr. Alex Karan, about 14% of everyday conversations are gossip. Gossip is also an important factor in building relationships of trust and intimacy among friends. They also help shape the moral principles of our behavior.
Despite a lot of research revealing the positive meanings of gossip, negative reviews are still widespread. I was particularly struck by the reaction to my recent presentation, which I gave in my laboratory. The bulk of the questions were about what counts as gossip. People asked if talking about the US president, discussing a letter of recommendation with a colleague, or talking about a person's physical condition (with his permission) was considered gossip. My answer in all cases was positive.
The scientific definition of gossip is that it is talking about an absent person
I felt there was a stigma surrounding gossip in all of these issues. Although these people just listened to my 30-minute lecture on how common gossip is, how often the subject is not presented in a negative light, and what a positive role they play in human life, the audience continued to ask questions that seemed to ask permission not calling your behavior "gossip". People are not ready to give up the stigmatization of gossip.
Stigma is especially harmful when gossip is viewed in the light of stereotypes. For example, it is widely believed that women gossip more than men. Women's conversations are labeled "gossip." This leads to the fact that the content of the conversation (whether in a work setting or at leisure) begins to be seen as something frivolous.
In our study, we found that there is very little evidence that women wash bones more than men
We found that nonjudgmental gossip is indeed more common for women than for men, but there is no reliable evidence that negative or positive gossip is more common for women.
In fact, most of the cases of gossip we looked at in our study were very boring. We took samples of gossip from live speech of 467 participants using the EAR method ("electronically activated voice recorder"), when in the course of people's daily life short fragments of their speech are recorded on a voice recorder (participants carry a voice recorder with them and do not know exactly when it turns on) …
When I tried to select examples for my presentation from among the recorded audio files, it was very difficult for me to find anything interesting - even when I searched among negatively colored discussions (which accounted for 15.1% in our study). Not being able to read all 4,003 gossip tapes from our study, I did the best I could and found this example from one of the study participants:
“In the end, who prepares everything and then cleans up and puts things in order? And she says: “We have to come on time. I don't care how other families behave. And we always do everything ourselves. And she … this time will be different. " And I say: “It will never be different. They never arrive on time. They always come ten minutes before lunch, eat and leave, leaving the cleaning for others."
This is (to my disappointment) not too greasy or obscene gossip. The discovery is that even when people gossip with negative assessments, it is usually about the simplest things. 74.3% of the gossip samples we collected turned out to be neutral, that is, they did not contain a positive or negative assessment. Neutral gossip is this kind of discussion: “She was in the cinema yesterday and will go tomorrow. Today we are going to a show at the university. And this is always the case. She tries to have time to watch all the new films: to “keep abreast” of everything new, and still has time to go to the old ones when they are shown."
Sometimes gossip may even contain a positive rating (9.4% in our study). Often they contain a compliment about the appearance or any achievements of a person. For example: "I don't know if she is a model or what, but I mean, she is really very pretty."
Researchers note another positive side of gossip: it serves a moral function. They show what behavior is considered right or wrong in the culture, and can also be a kind of punishment for bad behavior. Therefore, even if people spread “bad rumors,” they have an important function
Imagine that you are considering dating a man and suddenly hear a long story from your friend about how the man cheated on his wife. This will serve as a warning signal for you, and you may want to reconsider your attitude towards that man. This will also signal potential cheaters that their reputation may be undermined.
In short, gossip is a widespread behavior that serves important functions in society. Spread this good gossip news as widely as possible!
- By Megan Robbins, Ph. D
- Translation by Kiril Melamud a