Go Ahead and Gossip---Science Says It's the Right Thing to Do

By Valerie Ross
Jan 19, 2012 12:58 AMNov 19, 2019 10:52 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

He did what? Innnnteresting...

Thorough scientific study has revealed that lots of supposed vices can have surprising upsides: alcohol



. Thanks to UC Berkeley researchers, we can now add another so-bad-but-oh-so-good habit to the list: Gossip, their new study suggests, can be a selfless act of public service

. Surreptitiously passing along the news that someone has behaved badly---what's technically called "prosocial gossip"---can relieve stress, as well as warn others to regard the rule-breaker with a wary eye, the researchers say. (The study didn't look directly at other forms of gossip---rumormongering, telling lies, anything said to a confessional cam on reality TV---so make of that what you will.) In one experiment, the scientists found that people's heart rates spiked when they saw one of two people playing a game cheating, but calmed again when they had the chance to jot a note, middle school-style, to the next competitor about what they'd seen. "Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip," one of the researchers said in a statement---scientific confirmation of that scratching-a-lingering-itch feeling of relief we get from clucking our tongues when someone's out of line. What's more, the researchers found, people who were most altruistic would gossip most readily about the transgressor, and even give up their compensation for the experiment to do so. If the most good-hearted among us are willing to pay to gossip, how bad it could it be? [via i09


Image: Shutterstock

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.