A New Study Reveals Some Surprising Benefits Of Gossip

January 16th 2017

If gossip is one of your guilty pleasures, there may be some benefits to be gleaned from this busybody habit. A new study from the University of Pavia in Italy suggests it might be beneficial to social interaction.

"[Gossip] serves a useful social function," study lead Dr. Natascia Brondino told Broadly of her findings. "It brings people closer together than they would be if they were talking about some impersonal topic. And it can help us figure out who to trust, because we can hear information about people we don't know from trusted sources."

Looking at 22 female participants, the study researchers found that the brain releases more oxytocin during gossip than other kinds of conversation. Oxytocin is a hormone connected to "life-affirming activities as maternal behavior, lactation, selective social bonding and sexual pleasure," according to the American Psychological Association. Brondino told Broadly that she only studied female participants because she didn't want "men and women taking part in the study to become aroused by each other and influence the findings."

ATTN: has reached out to Brondino for further comment and will update this piece if she responds.

Other research backs up these new findings.

A January 2014 study published in Psychological Science found that gossip and ostracism in groups can promote cooperation, reduce exploitation of some group members, and put a stop to egotistical behavior.

"Groups that allow their members to gossip sustain cooperation and deter selfishness better than those that don't," study co-author Matthew Feinberg said in a release at the time. "And groups do even better if they can gossip and ostracize untrustworthy members. While both of these behaviors can be misused, our findings suggest that they also serve very important functions for groups and society."

Research also suggests that gossip in the workplace can also lead to positive results. A November 2012 paper in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that the fear of falling victim to gossip can encourage people to meet their social circle's expectations for behavior and conduct.

“The threat of gossip seems to function as social pressure that motivates group members to ‘stay in line’ and behave in accordance with what they think their group members want them to do," study researcher Dr. Bianca Beersma said of the findings in 2014, noting that gossip provides a "social cement” in the workplace.

[H/T Broadly]

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