Is Gossip Good for You?
— Jennifer Cole and Hannah Scrivener, presented Sept. 7 at a British Psychological Society conference.
“IF you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me,” Alice Roosevelt Longworth, a self-proclaimed “hedonist,” used to say. But it seems the greater pleasure comes from more temperate gossip.
New research finds that gossiping can be good for you — as long as you have something nice to say.
In a presentation in September, Jennifer Cole, a social psychologist, and Hannah Scrivener reported results from two related studies, both of which demonstrate that it’s in one’s self-interest to say “So-and-so’s second husband is adorable” rather than “She married that lout?”
In the first study, intended to measure a person’s short-term emotional reaction to gossiping, 140 men and women, primarily undergraduates, were asked to talk about a fictional person either positively or negatively.
The second study, which looked into the long-term effects of gossiping on well-being, had 160 participants, mostly female undergrads, fill out questionnaires about their tendency to gossip, their self-esteem and their perceived social support.
According to Dr. Cole, after speaking kindly of others, positive emotions were raised 3 percent, negative emotions were reduced 6 percent, and self-esteem rose 5 percent. These are not huge numbers, as Dr. Cole is the first to admit. But it’s nonetheless one of the few times researchers have attributed anything beneficial to the silly art of gossip.
And there was one decidedly positive result: whether kind or cruel, gossip was associated with a greater sense of social support for the perpetuator.
But does tittle-tattle really help attract more friends? “It could be that people who gossip a lot think they have social... [continua]
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