Whether it is in your neighborhood or at your workplace, gossip is as unavoidable as the weather. But while we may think that gossip is only a bad thing with negative consequences, a new series of research shows -in fact- gossip can be good and useful.
In their study published last month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Matthew Feinberg and his co-authors explain how when it comes to helping one-another in groups, gossip plays an important role. One of those roles is that by sharing gossip about someone who is destructive or in some way negative to deal with, others can then know to avoid that person and not be exposed to that risk. It is a way that other people’s experiences can be traded or shared, which in turn helps others who can learn from that experience.
The trouble, which is quite obvious, is that some gossip is simply rumor or lies. Is such situations it doesn’t really help other people in the group who are reacting based on false information. Still, the concern for being the victim of negative or false gossip can sometimes cause people to be more careful about their actions and interactions with others within a group. An interesting side effect of the power of gossip.
Photo: mitikusa / flickr
Reference: Feinberg, M., Willer, R., Stellar, J., & Keltner, D. (2012). The virtues of gossip: reputational information sharing as prosocial behavior Journal of Personality and Social Psychology DOI: 10.1037/a0026650