Saturday, January 29, 2011
I’ve been seeing this word come up often over the past several days and decided to take a closer look into it. Everyone knows gossiping is considered bad behavior and morally wrong, but still it goes on all the time. I gossip and I wanted to know if there have been any studies done on this very prevalent behavior that so many people engage in. Low and behold there have been some done in recent years and they have learned some interesting information from their research.
The scientists have determined that 65% of a person’s conversation could be defined as gossip. Gossip is talking about others and being indiscreet in a private setting so that you can be careful in a public setting. It is done so frequently, as a human behavior, that it is surprising that so little research has been done on it. The fact is that it is very difficult to develop methods to actually study gossip. But, some of the results of these studies were very interesting to me.
“In the past few years psychologists have begun to realize that gossip is more than just idle chatter: It is the key to navigating our social worlds”
Studies show that talking negatively about others is a powerful way to form relationships with others. This applies to both men and women. It was found that positive information shared was usually about objects, while the sharing of negative information tended to be about people. It may not be a question of “should” we behave this way, but “why” we behave this way.
Dr. Frank McAndrew states, “Gossip is not a character flaw, it's a social skill -- an evolutionary mechanism for maintaining social status, hard-wired from our prehistoric past. For most of our evolutionary history, we lived in small groups, where it would be advantageous for an individual to be interested in everyone else in the group -- the good news about our friends and allies, and the bad news about high-ranking individuals and potential rivals." According to the professor, in prehistoric times the passing on of gossip served to make our ancestors survive and prosper. This statement also explains why we are so interested in celebrity gossip. Gossip is also promoted by stressful situations and is a way to release frustration and tension.
Does that mean we should gossip? Not necessarily. It is not always bad for you. “It forges connections, builds trust, provides a means of learning unwritten social norms and offers a way of comparing ourselves with others.” Gossip can actually be healthy.
If you want to know more you can search for Dr Frank McAndrews online. He has been working on the study of this behavior in recent years. The links below are just two of several I found regarding his conclusions.