Gossip girls take heart — idle chat can be good for your health

Gossip has an upside, a new study suggests, helping to lower stress and maintaining social order by keeping bad behavior in check and preventing exploitation.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, reported their findings in January's online issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"Gossip gets a bad rap," said Robb Willer, a social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley who co-authored the report, according to CNN. "Much of what we call gossip is driven by a sincere desire to help others."

Willer and colleagues found gossip also has a therapeutic effect: volunteer's heart rates rose when they observed someone behaving badly, then lessened somewhat when they warned others about what they had witnessed, according to Medical News Today reported.

"Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip," Willer reportedly said.

For the study, the researchers focused on "prosocial" gossip, which is intended to warn others about untrustworthy or dishonest people. This is in contrast to other forms of gossip, such as voyeuristic rumor-mongering about a celebrity's latest exploits.

In other words, the San Francisco Chronicle writes, they "didn't study the rumormongering type of gossip spread about such things as whether Kim Kardashian's marriage was a sham from the get-go or if the Duchess of Cambridge is really pregnant with an extraterrestrial baby.

The researchers did focus on the act of spreading negative information about people who aren't participating in the conversation, clearly the hallmark of all self-respecting gossip.

They also relied on the "prosocial" — or, the Chronicle suggests, "good" — gossip as being reliable.


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