All Articles Tagged "Robb Willer"
“Keep my name out yo mouth,” is a classic anti-gossip statement—or fighting words. In fact, I think we just heard Kimbella say it to Erica Mena on Monday’s episode of “Love and Hip Hop.” Anyway, nobody likes to be talked about behind their back, especially if something negative is being said, but according to research from UC Berkley, gossip could actually be good for us.
“Gossip gets a bad rap, but we’re finding evidence that it plays a critical role in the maintenance of social order,” says Social psychologist Robb Willer. “Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip.”
In other words, you stop yourself from popping a blood vessel when you expose someone else’s business. For instance, in one study, people’s heart rates went up when they witnessed another person do something wrong, and their heart rate went back down again when given the chance to pass along reports of the person’s bad behavior to others.
Luckily, the researchers weren’t studying the practice of spreading malicious rumors, what they examined is called “prosocial gossip,” which is when people pass along information about those misbehaving as a warning to others. In one experiment, the researchers actually found that a lot of participants were willing to sacrifice money for the ability to pass along gossip that warned the next set of participants that people were cheating. In a following experiment, some participants were even willing to give back the money they were paid to be in the study to tell that someone was cheating, even though they were told it would have no effect on the cheater.
The threat of being talked about also seems to be a strong deterrent for some people, suggesting gossip can help instill social order. When 300 participants were given raffle tickets that they could decide how best to share, a few of the participants were allowed to observe each other’s scores and pass along gossip notes on those they felt weren’t sharing fairly after each round. The other participants were aware of this, and the researchers found that the threat of being the subject of negative gossip generally encouraged people to be significantly more generous.
At the end of the day, of course it would be nice to just say people should mind their own business, but we know that’s never going to happen.
Do you ever pass along gossipy stories about people to warn others not to follow in their footsteps? Do you do (or not do) certain things just so you won’t be talked about?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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