02-11-2012, 08:45 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: western Wa
Do you gossip? It might be good for you.
What do you think about this?
Psst! Did you hear about the researchers who found that gossip can sometimes soothe frustration as well as temper the increase in heart rate that goes along with it?
The research, published online last month by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, looked at the effects of prosocial gossip. This form of gossip protects others from harm or exploitation by spreading the word about someone elseís bad behavior.
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Gossipís Good Side
In one experiment, two confederates posing as study volunteers played a game. Meanwhile, actual volunteers observed while hooked up to a heart rate monitor. After a few rounds, it became clear that one player wasnít following the rules. The observersí heart rates shot up as they watched the cheating, a sign that it upset them. But observers who passed a ďgossip noteĒ to warn the non-cheating player felt less frustrated and irritated, and their heart rate stayed lower.
In a follow-up experiment, the observers were only able to send gossip notes if they gave up some of the $5 they were paid for being in the study. Three-quarters still chose to do it.
Out in the world, this suggests that letting your single friends know about someoneís fake dating profile or letting your work associates know about someoneís shady business dealings isnít just good for them. You could be doing your own health and well-being a favor, too.
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We usually think of gossip as idle or malicious, and often it is. But as this study showed, certain types of gossip can be positive, for both those who spread the news and those who hear it.
In fact, gossiping appears to be a normal, natural part of human nature. Frank McAndrew, a psychology professor at Knox College, has suggested that it should be viewed as a social skill rather than a character flaw, because itís only a problem when not done well.
According to academics who study this kind of thing, good gossip serves the social interests of the group, not just the tale-tellerís selfish desire for benefits or attention. It can help build alliances, communicate group values, and sanction group members who step out of line. Gossip is particularly useful for discouraging ďfree ridersĒópeople who take from the group but donít give anything in return.
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Deterrent to Selfishness
In a study from the University of Amsterdam, volunteers believed that they were part of a group and had been randomly chosen to distribute 100 tickets for a cash-prize lottery. They were told two things: that others would or would not know how many tickets they kept for themselves, and that others were or were not prone to gossip. Those who thought that their actions were public and the chance for gossip was high acted most generously toward others.
It seems that the grapevine serves a positive purpose, as long as itís not abused with malicious or selfish intent. And thatís great news for all of us who gossip now and then. Pass it along.
"If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." -- Samuel Adams 1776
"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."