Gossip is good for you! That’s the word from a study at the University of California, Berkeley, which found that some forms of gossip can actually be therapeutic.
Here’s the deal: as part of their investigation, researchers studied the behavior of volunteers who were allowed to witness someone cheating at a game. When they saw the cheating, the volunteers’ heart rates increased, but when they were able to warn subsequent players via a “gossip” note that an opponent wasn’t playing fairly, their stress-fed heart rates calmed down.
The study leader said that a central reason for engaging in gossip is to help others out, rather than to maliciously verbally dissect an absent neighbor, co-worker or celebrity. The participants were also asked to complete an altruism questionnaire, and those who scored highest were most likely to report negative emotions when they saw someone cheat.
The researchers concluded that observing someone behave in an immoral way leads to frustration, and that being able to communicate the information to others makes us feel better.