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Gossiping Might Be Good for You

Gossiping Might Be Good for You

01/18/12

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Many people regard gossip as idle chatter that can harm people's reputations, but it may have some benefits, such as reducing stress, discouraging bad behavior and preventing exploitation.

That's the finding of a University of California, Berkeley study that included four experiments involving hundreds of volunteers.

"Gossip gets a bad rap, but we're finding evidence that it plays a critical role in the maintenance of social order," study co-author and social psychologist Robb Willer said in a university news release.

He and his colleagues also found that gossip can be therapeutic. Study participants' heart rates rose when they saw someone behaving badly, but the increase was moderated when they were able to tell others about what they had witnessed.

"Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip," Willer explained.

The urge to warn others about bad people is so strong that study participants sacrificed money to send a "gossip note" to warn others who were about to play against cheaters in economic trust games, the study found.

Overall, the findings suggest that people don't need to feel bad about revealing underhanded behavior by others, especially if it helps save someone from exploitation, the researchers concluded.

"We shouldn't feel guilty for gossiping if the gossip helps prevent others from being taken advantage of," lead author and social psychologist Matthew Feinberg said in the news release.

The study was published online Jan. 9 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

More information

The Social Issues Research Centre has more about gossip.

Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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