The Upside of Gossip: Social and Psychological Benefits

Fascinating article into the social benefits of gossip. Focuses on altruistic gossip, ie, people trying to warn others about someone who is cheating or exploiting others, vs. malicious gossip.

Health & Family

Haven’t got anything nice to say? Well, you might want to say it anyway — especially if you think it’ll help ward off some bad behavior.

It seems that gossip may be getting an undeserved bad rap, particularly so-called prosocial gossip, which serves to warn others about dishonest or untrustworthy people — unlike the catty, idle chatter that fuels so many office and schoolyard rumors.

In a small study that looked at the effects of prosocial gossip, psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, found that engaging in behind-the-back talk actually had meaningful social benefits. It lowered gossipers’ stress, prevented exploitation and promoted more generous behavior.

“Gossip can be bad, but we tend to overlook that it can be good as well,” says social psychologist Robb Willer, a co-author of the study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “A lot of gossip is driven by concern for…

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