Can Gossiping Actually Be Good for You?
Gossip-mongers are shunned from many social groups — but a new study finds they may actually be the least-stressed among us.
In work published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers from University of California at Berkeley hooked up study subjects to heart rate monitors and asked them to watch a game between two players, one of whom was cheating.
Witnessing the bad behavior made the participants’ heart rates go up. But when they had the opportunity to slip a note to the honest player to alert him his opponent wasn’t on the up-and-up, most did — and their heart rates came back down.
“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 study co-author Robb Willer.
“A central reason for engaging in gossip was to help others out,” lead author Matthew Feinberg added, “more so than just to talk trash about the selfish individual.”
The researchers said idle gossip — about celebrities, for example — does little to help others. But pro-social gossip like that in the study can actually be therapeutic, especially if it keeps other people from being taken advantage of.
So blab away. Just make sure your motives are pure.