By Emily Murray
A recent study from the University of California, Berkely, has a lot of people talking. Apparently while many of us are frequently reminded to stay away from gossip, the opposite may actually be advisable.
It seems that warning others about the dangers of associating with a certain person, business etc. is natural and, in some ways healthy, for us personally and for society as well.
Of course, there are different types of gossip and different motives for spreading this typically negative information.
Think of the disgruntled lover who is dumped by his/her partner. Many untruths may be spread simply to hurt the other’s reputation, but perhaps if the person is cheating and the other is spreading this particular information, the intent is to protect others from making the same mistake and getting hurt as well. You can see in the second case that there may be a real purpose in that type of situation.
In order to identify how the body reacts to certain kind of gossip, one test had researchers look at the heart rates of 53 study participants. They would watch a game where they could clearly see one party was cheating. They were given the opportunity to pass a note explaining how the cheating was taken place to the innocent party. When the participants were watching the cheating take place, they noticed a general increase in heart rate indicating that witnessing this type of thing caused them some form of stress. Once the note was passed however, heart rates started to go back down. This shows that gossiping (in this case, in the form of a note outing the cheater) can actually help us the release some of the anger, frustration and tension we are holding inside.
Other experiments like these were also conducted as part of the research. One, which involved 300 participants, also revealed a telling result as well. This one was a bit more intricate as participants stretched worldwide and were chosen after responding to a craigslist ad asking those interested to take part in an “economic trust game.” Questionnaires were first sent to these people which helped rate their selfish and unselfish qualities.
Once those involved were told that they could freely pass notes to others if someone wasn’t playing by the rules, researchers noticed the participants all began playing more fairly. This was particularly interesting in those who answered questions that put them in the more selfish category. Not only is it beneficial for those to share what they see with others when a wrong has been committed, but it also forces people to behave less selfishly for fear of being the subject of the gossip.
It’s worth mentioning that this specifically deals with one type of gossip and does not mean all types of gossip are beneficial to our health and society as a whole. The moral we can take away from this is that if we are sharing gossip as a means of warning others not to be hurt in the way we have been, there is definitely a silver lining.