Gossip is something we associate with envious people who are jealous of others and like to spread rumors. Whether it’s discussing someone’s looks or gloating over their misfortunes, we see it as something negative. But in reality, it’s not as bad as we think, and it can even benefit us.
We at Bright Side came across research that showed us what gossip truly is. And we’re excited to tell you all about it.
Gossip doesn’t have to be negative.
When we think of gossip, most of us probably think of trash talk and spreading rumors. However, about 14% of our daily conversations consist of gossip, and most of the time it’s neutral rather than positive or negative, a study suggests.
Gossiping can even be beneficial.
Research suggests that gossiping can help us build social connections and learn through other people’s experiences. When we share important information about ourselves or other people with each other, it can feel rewarding and help us build trust and stronger bonds.
What we discuss can also influence our future behavior. When we compare our impressions of other people, it can help us understand our feelings better and also establish what kind of behavior is and isn’t acceptable. Gossip can also promote cooperation.
Researchers created a game to test the merits of gossiping.
Researchers decided to find out more about why people gossip and what purpose it serves, and they created an online game. In it, participants played 10 rounds together in 6-person groups. In each round, they were given 100 points, and they could either keep the money for themselves or invest any portion of it into a group fund. That sum was then multiplied by 1.5 and divided equally among the players.
Sometimes the participants could only see what a couple of other players were doing, and not all of them could do so. In these rounds, they were allowed to privately chat with another member of the group. Just like we can’t always learn about someone’s behavior first-hand in real life, the participants had to rely on the information other group members privately shared with them about whether someone in the group was freeriding or not. This information would help them decide whether they wanted to play together again.
This type of game is known as a public goods game. Usually, players contribute less over time in such games. However, in this game, if the participants were allowed to communicate with each other, cooperation declined less over time. The results also showed that players who chatted with each other felt more connected with each other.
This proves that gossiping is actually an important part of our lives that can help us build social connections and even promote cooperation.
Do you gossip? What do you usually discuss? Who do you gossip with? Do you agree with what the research has uncovered?