Next time someone gives you that jeering look while you gossip, tell them it's not such a bad habit after all. A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that rumor-mongering can actually help lower stress, prevent exploitation and, more importantly, keep the bad guys at bay.
Study finds that gossiping can actually have therapeutic effects, similar to psychological counseling. If you feel frustrated on hearing someone's wicked account, sharing it with others can help ease your heart-rate.
"When we observe someone behave in an immoral way, we get frustrated, but being able to communicate this information to others, who could be helped, makes us feel better." said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a coauthor of the study.
Results from the study were published in this month's online issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"Gossip gets a bad rap, but we're finding evidence that it plays a critical role in the maintenance of social order," Willer added.
The study, however, focused on positive "pro-social" gossip that warns others about untrustworthy or dishonest people, and not much on the regular tabloid-styled celebrity gossips. The study found that a main reason for engaging in gossip was to help others out and not just to talk trash about the related individual.
Participants in the study did not mind passing gossips note, even if that required shelling off money in order to warn others about unsavory characters in an economic trust game.
"We shouldn't feel guilty for gossiping if the gossip helps prevent others from being taken advantage of," said Matthew Feinberg, lead author of the paper.
The study also indicated that fear of being an outcast or the subject of negative gossip also inspired the participants to act more generously, who had otherwise shown selfish streaks.