The broader view of gossip

All humans partake in gossip in some form. Everyone talks about other people. One study found that male participants spent 55% of conversation time and female participants 67% conversation time on socially relevant topics.

People like to think of gossip as the same as malicious rumours, but researchers define gossip as talking about people who aren't present.

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Communication

The Science Behind Why People Gossip

time.com

Gossip gives people the ability to spread useful information to large social networks. Without engaging in these discussions, we would be unable to maintain societies.

A 2019 meta-analysis found that of the 52 minutes a day the 467 participants spent gossiping, most of it was neutral. 15% was considered negative gossip, and 9% was positive.

  • It helps us get information about people from others when the network is too big to get it firsthand.
  • Gossip offers teachable moments and provides examples of what's socially acceptable and what's not.
  • People want to be seen positively by others and fit in socially. Gossip can help to keep people in check morally.
  • Gossip can spread the reputation of someone.
  • Gossip facilitate bonding and closeness.
  • It can also serve as a form of entertainment.

Some types of gossip should be avoided, such as harmful gossip that serves no greater purpose.

There's also a physiological distinction between active and passive participation in gossip. A study showed that when subjects heard about another person's anti-social behaviour, their heart rates increased. When they actively gossiped about the person, it helped calm their body.

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