Gossip is healthy because it helps calm you down and is important in maintaining social order, a new study claims.
Idle chatter in the workplace or over a coffee is often viewed as a damaging habit which spreads salacious rumours and harms people's reputations.
But new research suggests gossip could actually lower stress and help people overcome the frustration of seeing someone doing something wrong and getting away with it.
Psychologists from the University of California, Berkeley, found that volunteers' heart rates rose when they observed someone misbehaving, but that this stopped when they were allowed to discuss what they had seen with others.
The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, focused on "prosocial" gossip which helps spread information about dishonest people rather than voyeuristic chatter about celebrities' love lives, the researchers said.
In a trial designed to determine how strong our urge is to spread gossip, some participants even said they would spend money in order to send a note warning others about people they had seen cheating in a trust exercise.
Prof Robb Willer, one of the researchers, said: "Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip."
The study also showed that passing on rumours could help us monitor people who behave badly and prevent each other from being exploited by malicious individuals, Prof Willer added.
In an online trust game where players could lower their chances of winning by warning others about cheaters, the threat of being the subject of bad gossip encouraged people to play more fairly.
2012-01-20 18:00 编辑：crystal156