Summary of “Gossiping Is Good”

A team of Dutch researchers reported that hearing gossip about others made research subjects more reflective; positive gossip inspired self-improvement efforts, and negative gossip made people prouder of themselves.
In another study, the worse participants felt upon hearing a piece of negative gossip, the more likely they were to say they had learned a lesson from it.
Negative gossip can also have a prosocial effect on those who are gossiped about.
By far the most positive assessment of gossip comes courtesy of the anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar.
Once upon a time, in Dunbar’s account, our primate ancestors bonded through grooming, their mutual back-scratching ensuring mutual self-defense in the event of attack by predators.
As hominids grew more intelligent and more social, their groups became too large to unite by grooming alone.
That’s where language-and gossip, broadly defined-stepped in.
This article appears in the July/August 2018 print edition with the headline “Gossip Is Good.”.

The orginal article.