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Gossip may have social purpose, study says
January 18th, 2012
12:27 PM ET

Gossip may have social purpose, study says

"Did you hear what she did?" "Guess what I just found out about our new co-worker!" These could be the starts of nasty rumors, but a new study suggests the act of gossiping can also serve important purposes in maintaining social order.

Researchers report their findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"Gossip gets a bad rap," said Robb Willer, social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. "Much of what we call gossip is driven by a sincere desire to help others."

In a series of studies, Willer and colleagues explored the effect that receiving and relaying gossip has on people. Specifically they looked at rumors that involve another person being untrustworthy.

One study involved 53 participants who were hooked up to heart rate monitors and learned that someone else in the laboratory had behaved in a selfish, exploitative way. They were told that the untrustworthy person would also interact with others in the room. This information elevated participants' heart rates. But once a participant passed on a note warning others not to trust that person, the participant's heart rate was tempered.

A second study with 111 participants expanded on this idea. The third study, with 45 participants, added the dimension that people had to pay in order to spread gossip.

Another experiment took place online, involving 399 participants engaging in games that involved cooperating with other people. It appeared that participants were more cooperative and less selfish if they believed an observer could gossip about them to other interaction partners in the game. That is, the threat of gossip served a purpose in making people work together.

The in-person studies incorporated small numbers of participants, making them less compelling statistically. All four studies, moreover, had more women than men, raising the question of whether the results are more geared toward women's behavior.

Future research may focus on how much gossip that people generally spread is good vs. bad, and how gossip differs across cultures globally, Willer said. His team also hasn't looked at pure catty talk - rumors spread about people that would make them feel embarrassed, but don't have anything to do with their moral character.

"The kind where people are just sort of preying on others' weaknesses is probably not so useful, and may even be socially deleterious in that it gives gossip as a whole a bad name," Willer said.


soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Leucadia Bob

    Gossip about this: Mike Rudolph – exceptional up and coming talent
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS4XouXr3AQ&w=640&h=360]

    January 18, 2012 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Leucadia Bob

    Yovee – original sound and style
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4i4249PfoCA&w=640&h=360]

    January 18, 2012 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Leucadia Bob

    The Mattson 2 – an incredible twin brother duo – top notch musicians on their game
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBnVbC00Is0&w=640&h=360]

    January 18, 2012 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jay

      Guess what? I heard that the brunette in the photo at the top of the article was fathered by a mule!

      January 18, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • jay

      I heard that the brunette in the photo at the top of the article was fathered by a mule!

      January 18, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
  4. Melly Telly

    They cannot be serious. Gossip is ungodly and therefore not good for you. I am curious to know what their definition of gossip is. Next thing you know, someone will come out with a study saying envy, wrath and lasciviousness are good for you too.

    January 18, 2012 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • johnkeating

      Yes. They really need to define what 'gossip' is. I always thought of 'gossip' as destructive, not constructive, mostly. Sort of like what sells best in tabloids - negative news about some celebrity or something sensational or horrific. News is mostly negative, not positive.

      January 18, 2012 at 14:15 | Report abuse |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      Yes, we all remember the passage from Corinthians: "And the Lord did see that their mouths were full of gossip and their eyes of soap operas, and lo, He was filled with much anger."

      January 18, 2012 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      When you prove ‘god’ is real, we can consider what is or isn’t will. Until then you sound absolutely ridiculous. At least… that’s what I heard at the water cooler.

      January 18, 2012 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
    • cmcle

      They did define what they meant by gossip: "Specifically they looked at rumors that involve another person being untrustworthy."

      It's a very narrow definition, obviously, which is why they concluded by saying that: ""The kind where people are just sort of preying on others' weaknesses is probably not so useful, and may even be socially deleterious in that it gives gossip as a whole a bad name."

      With their narrow definition, they demonstrated that "gossiping" or the opportunity to "gossip" about the threat (untrustworthiness) posed by others within the group can serve two useful purposes. First, by creating awareness, gossip can help people protect themselves against the threats of others. Second, if a person is aware that others may talk about him or her, that person is more likely to act in a socially responsible manner.

      January 18, 2012 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      I agree. That is ridiculous. People are getting shot up, beat up, and/or mentally screwed up due to "gossip". If you want to help someone, you go to them and offer to help them. I would like to see who gossip ever helped except those who wish to hurt someone else for whatever reason. No, gossip is the wrong. It is the gossiper that needs help. They sure aren't helping out. Yeah, I think that is quite different from telling someone that a person he/she knows has bad intentions. That's helpful, but that's also not gossip. Gossip tends towards being an exaggeration mixed with often blatant lies to make something that may have happened seem more extreme then it is/was. Even people with the best intentions will gossip now and then but it is still very wrong.

      January 19, 2012 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
    • evidence is required

      So Angel, if your boss had already screwed several people over and someone wanted to warn a colleague about that behavior and credible evidence was presented to verify the message, is that wrong? Should people who do bad things be allowed to propagate their bad behavior without warning? If your spouse was cheating on you shamelessly and your friend knew, should they stay silent and let your spouse continue until they've had their fill and you are the only person who doesn't know? Is that bad? I think all claims should be accompanied by credible, verifiable evidence to back those claims up. Otherwise, those claims are slander, which is bad. Always check up on the evidence before sharing or believing.

      January 19, 2012 at 19:23 | Report abuse |
  5. bspurloc

    yeah gossip is so useful... teenagers girls spreading childish rumors about people they dont like is very useful in the adult world.

    January 18, 2012 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lola

      yep,i always believe them, don't you?

      January 18, 2012 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
  6. Knucklehead

    So, if someone tells you something about someone, and it makes you feel better, it's automatically a good thing? Like the way we tell ourselves all Muslims are evil so we feel better about our Imperial warmongering ways?

    January 18, 2012 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • abujess

      Hi . We may be warmongers, but muslims are evil in their thoughts, faith, behavior and conduct.

      January 18, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
    • dan the all loving atheist

      lots of jesus loving going on this site today

      January 18, 2012 at 15:44 | Report abuse |
  7. mother of four

    Gossip has one and only one redeeming quality, in my opinion. If I've been having problems with someone and can't quite work out what I did wrong or if I get an unpleasant "vibe" from them, it can sometimes help to know that it's not just me that's experiencing this. I do not gossip and will suffer in silence rather than do so, but sometimes information sharing (gossiping) of this kind will help me refocus my attention on solving the problem–if it can be solved. Or, if this person is simply difficult to work with, it takes me off the hook (I'm quick to assume that the problem must be mine). Too, if someone is having personal problems, while I'm not terribly interested in knowing what they are by way of gossip, it does help to know that they're in some kind of crisis.

    January 18, 2012 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Choconet

      With "information sharing" so long as what you're sharing is the "truth" of your experience in interacting with the "nasty" person. The problem comes when people share not only their "truth" about the "nasty person", but add in other people's so called "truth" about the "nasty person" that's when it stops being "information sharing" and starts being gossip.

      January 18, 2012 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      @ mother of four
      >when it stops being "information sharing" and starts being gossip.

      Is when YOU become the nasty person. Stop playing games and be honest.

      January 18, 2012 at 16:19 | Report abuse |
  8. Dan Gonzaga

    "the act of gossiping can also serve important purposes in maintaining social order"
    That's a leap of a rationalization. You could say the same for bullying, but I doubt that anyone sane right now would want to go there.

    January 18, 2012 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bannister

      I'll go there. Bully is most definitively a way of maintaining social order. That doesn't mean it's right, but it definitely establishes a hierarchy. MANY things establish social order – marriage, jobs, government, war, sporting events, concerts, etc.

      January 18, 2012 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
  9. Anonymous

    That's psychology for you. They do one study, and boom, everything you always knew is worthless. Until they do another study that disconfirms the first one, and then boom. Etc. Psychology is not a science.

    January 18, 2012 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lone

      It is, but being a 'soft' topic it tends to be handled badly and not to the rigors of other fields.

      January 18, 2012 at 15:53 | Report abuse |
  10. Meme

    Of course its not good. It creates stress in the workplace, it divides people. creates mistrust, disrespect, its a hostile activity that also encourages bullying, in fact anti-bullying CNN, it IS bullying.

    I don't understand in all reasonable ability WHY gossip is being twisted into something positive? Why?

    Its not.

    January 18, 2012 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anonymous

      The reason is that in academia, you have to publish something new. So if you can't come up with something new that's true, then you have to publish bs. But the most important thing is that it be new bs that no one has every said before.

      January 18, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse |
    • elandau

      Hello Meme, we are not talking about bullying in this story. We are talking about spreading knowledge that a particular person is untrustworthy, NOT the catty chatter about a person's weaknesses. I tried to draw this distinction in the last paragraph.

      Thanks for reading!
      Elizabeth Landau,
      CNN

      January 18, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      elandau, there is a difference between passing on a rumor about someone's possible untrustworthyness and actual gossip. The two are not the same, yet gossip is what you insist on calling it. Perhaps we should all study the dictionary definitions of gossip, scandal, rumor, etc. before we state that gossip is good. It has always had a negative meaning in our society, and is usually engaged in for negative reasons.

      January 18, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • Leucadia Bob

      Gossip is only as good as the Agenda/Intentions of the person that spreads it. For intsance-A great friend of mine was going out with a psychotic hose beast. Defying logic itself, he refused to listen to his best friends and family's advice to get as far away from this sucubus as possible. Not only was I forced to spread rumors(and by this I mean facts that I knew were true) about her, but I also wrote a song called Meth Head Girl, that layed it on pretty thick. In the end, he got a restraining order and is on the mend. Check out the song-it's funny as hell: http://soundcloud.com/leucadiabob/meth-head-girl

      January 18, 2012 at 16:32 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      This article is a victim of its own poor choice of words.

      Warning someone that someone is untrustworthy is not gossip. Gossip is spreading malicious rumors about others with the intent to give them a bad name. When the rumors are false its similar to libel, but even when the rumors are true – the malicious intent is what makes gossip bad. Warning that someone is untrustworthy out of a genuine desire to steer someone from danger is not done out of malicious intent.

      January 18, 2012 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
  11. JediChric

    I don't know if someone already mentioned this, but the picture above is from The Devils Advocate and if you don't give credit to the source, that's copyright infringement and if SOPA were passed, this whole site could be taken down. Just an FYI...

    January 18, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • elandau

      Hi JediChric, this is a photo from the stock photography source Thinkstock.

      Thanks for reading!
      Elizabeth Landau, CNN

      January 18, 2012 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
    • Leucadia Bob

      Snappy Journalistic comeback Elizabeth!

      January 18, 2012 at 16:22 | Report abuse |
  12. CNNREFUGUEE

    Funny,
    the stock image is of two women.
    Priceless.

    January 18, 2012 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. tamara reina

    Gossip is it uplifting the person that you are gossiping if not then ask why or what is purpose

    January 18, 2012 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. bannister

    I can understand how "gossip" may be good for us. Most of the time, we are trapped inside our own heads. In group settings, we may be confused about signals or actions by other members of the group. We are psychologically "isolated."

    But then – when we "confide" in someone and talk about the REST of the group, we experience a huge RELIEF from our psychological isolation. Now we realize that SOMEBODY ELSE thinks the same way we do!

    January 18, 2012 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Victor

      But how is that different from social conditioning. We try so hard to deny our instincts about so much in our environment and create so many shortcuts to tell us who is worhty and who is not, Gossip like you mention simply replaces our own impressions about somebody with catty heresay. I would far prefer to follow my instincts and follow my own conclusions even if, every so often, I am wrong.

      January 18, 2012 at 15:38 | Report abuse |
  15. JohnnyOh2323

    I heard that the editors at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology are going to get canned and wanted to create some buzz with a controversial topic.

    January 18, 2012 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. coaltalq

    Gossip : What uninteresting people do to sound interesting.....

    January 18, 2012 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. HB

    "They were told that the untrustworthy person would also interact with others in the room. This information elevated participants' heart rates. But once a participant passed on a note warning others not to trust that person, the participant's heart rate was tempered."

    Basically it's information that tempered the participant's heart rate. Accurate, trustworthy information is a good thing, but gossip – which is often neither reliable nor accurate – is not.

    This article focuses on the manner in which they received the information, but it seems that it's the information itself that is comforting and helpful.

    January 18, 2012 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leaf on the Wind

      Passing along information about someone's possible untrustworthyness is rumor, not gossip. That's the problem I have with this entire article.

      January 18, 2012 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • HB

      Sorry, "rumor" is a prettied up word for gossip.

      January 19, 2012 at 10:51 | Report abuse |
  18. steve

    Guess what, the same stupid article was posted 7 years ago by a woman who wants to make it socially acceptable in the work place.

    January 18, 2012 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Alix

    Just what we needed - a nice rationalization for all those people who like to add drama to the workplace!

    I get what the study is trying to say, but most gossip is pretty darn ugly and serves no purpose other than to make small-souled people feel superior.

    January 18, 2012 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. richard

    I don't believe its ever worked out for me ,and I lead a fairly quiet life .I've concluded their not paying attention to me.

    January 18, 2012 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. adamthefirst

    That's not what Jesus would say.

    January 18, 2012 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Lawrence

    ██████████ ██. ███ ███.

    This comment has been found in violation of H.R. 3261 SOPA and has been removed.

    January 18, 2012 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. edmundburkeson

    Whether its good for you has never been the issue! It is unequivocally bad for the intended target. More psychobabel please!!!!! Sic!!!!!

    January 18, 2012 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. josh

    this is not news, this article is worthless

    January 18, 2012 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Pendo

    What a load! I When is gossip ever good? Gossip is mean spirited and childish! People might not gossip as much if they actually had a life! Get one and your need to gossip will diminish!

    January 18, 2012 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Pika

    No wonder psychology is considered a worthless degree by so many.....

    January 18, 2012 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • generally speaking

      Pika, you would judge an entire field of study by a few experiments done by a few researchers? Would we judge all of Christianity by the actions of a few pedophile priests? Do we judge all U.S. citizens by the rednecks that populate Dundalk?

      January 19, 2012 at 19:40 | Report abuse |
  27. reality50

    I have posted several times, and it is not appearing – ??

    January 18, 2012 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pika

      That's because you gossip too much.

      January 18, 2012 at 16:07 | Report abuse |
    • reality50

      Good one Pika ; )

      January 18, 2012 at 16:25 | Report abuse |
  28. PeaceMonger

    I may relax by surfing the internet for gossip or rumours about politics, celebrities, news of the day – BUT as far as participating in it for real – whether among family, friends or others – I believe it can be destructive and very hurtful.

    Also, it seems a lot of bullying relies on ‘socially acceptable gossip.’

    It still distresses me today that at my age –in the workplace and in social settings people are still behaving like high school cliques and participating in this hateful/hurtful behavior.

    On a larger scale – rumors and gossip about the ‘evil Jews’ by the Nazi propaganda machine served as justification for discrimination and genocide.

    January 18, 2012 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. James

    INO>It is not...You tell one person something, they tell another with a little different version and finally there you go...Take the plank out of your own eye before you gossip about someone else...The only people who gossip are the ones that are never wrong in their minds...They are couch Psychologist...They love to hear themselves talk....The human race has lost its mine...By the way stealing is not ok, lying is not ok, cheating is not ok, boasting is not ok same sex marriage is not ok....We don't teach morals anymore....We as a race of people have an obligation to just be nice to people...mind our own business, and be truthful....But since our leaders are not like that, then what do we expect....Priest with young boys, teachers with students, Evangelist sucking up money for thier own good....Christian or not...we should do the right thing all the time....

    January 18, 2012 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hypocrite

      "mind our own business"- stay out of other people's bedrooms and they will stay out of yours. Same-sex marriage is no concern of yours so stay out of it, hypocrite.

      January 19, 2012 at 19:36 | Report abuse |
  30. Lila

    The reaction that gossip is bad is correct because everyone knows gossipy people and the chaos they create. Gossip is for controlling people who desperately want power in a group and have nothing else to offer. For people listening to it, they feel good for a moment because someone else is the target of negativity and not them. Gossipy types always appear jealous, petty and end up alone because they ruined all their relationships. They back stab everyone until no one is left. Think about it, if they were smart, attractive or talented to begin with, they wouldn't have to work so hard to bring down others to elevate their status.

    January 18, 2012 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. John

    Once again, commenters either did not read the article or read and misunderstood it. Being able to draw distinctions and see details is an important part of comprehension. It's best to understand something before adding your two cents.

    January 18, 2012 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. elgiblet

    So... I heard you like mudkips ?

    January 18, 2012 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Ann.

    Totally disagree with this article. There are so many other healthy productive ways to 'enhance our social purpose' such as practicing being a good listener. Gossip is harmful and destructive to the ones being gossiped about and the ones gossiping.

    January 18, 2012 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. TG

    Gossip is more readily understood as "somebody given to spreading personal or intimate information about other people."(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2005) Gossip can lead to slander. Proverbs 11:12, 13 says: "The one in want of heart has despised his own fellowman, but the man of broad discernment is one that keeps silent. The one walking about as a slanderer is uncovering confidential talk, but the one faithful in spirit is covering over a matter."

    A man or a woman who despises another person is “in want of heart.” According to lexicographer Wilhelm Gesenius, such an individual is “void of understanding.” He or she lacks good judgment, and the use of the term “heart” shows that positive qualities of the inner person are deficient. A person's good reputation can be damaged by a person who fails in showing consideration for other's personal affairs that does not violate God's laws and principles, but might be misconstrued.

    In addition, there are events that a person may have done or said, but is ashamed of later, wishing for no one to become aware of them. Thus, "the one faithful in spirit is covering over a matter". As king David of ancient Israel said to Jehovah God in prayer, after he had committed sexual immorality with Bathsheba: "The sacrifices to God are a broken spirit; A heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not despise."(Ps 51:17)

    January 18, 2012 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. are you kidding ?

    "A sincere desire to help others" :There is nothing sincere about using gossip, which is defined as idle chatter. And if one has a sincere desire to help another person, there are many compasionate and sensitive ways of going about it. This article is just trying to rationalize bad behavior. And the funding for the study I am sure could be put to more productive uses.

    January 18, 2012 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Jewish in Oregon

    Are this author out of her ever-loving mind?! The Torah defines lashon hara (evil tongue or gossip) to be the equivalent of murder! All we need to see is the type of things that are happening on Facebook and other social media to know that talking trash about others IS that serious – and can lead to suicide. At the very least, spreading rumors can ruin a person's reputation, marriage, any number of things. That's hardly "helping" to that person. If you want to help somebody, talk with THEM, not others. After all, you may not have all of the facts and talking with others only furthers your (likely) misinterpretation of another person.

    Besides, this study is flawed. The heart rates of the participants was artificially raised by gossip – somebody is not trustworthy. Then further gossip reduced it. Imagine that!!

    Much better that you don't do any gossip in the first place!!

    January 18, 2012 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • b

      True. My Jewish friends recently taught me this one, and this was emphasized by some Christian friends. After attending synagogue services and Christian services, I was raised Catholic, I felt more comfortable at the synagogue than at the latter two, because of the mutual respect, community, and how Jews see each other. It's really like a very close knit family, which is how Jews in general have treated me in the past. When no one was there, only a Jew would come help. So I hold this faith close to my heart, it saved my life in the past, so I am very thankful. This is why this verse helped me see the light, when explained by a reading that was recommended by the Chabbad center.

      When the day of Shabat arrives, we are given the gift of free time to think. Which most of us do not have during the week. The Yetzer Hara would love to get you to spend this time thinking about how angry we are because someone wronged us this week, which will lead to you speaking Lashon Hara.
      Instead, we should ask ourselves. Did I hate someone this week? Did the way a certain person act greatly irritate or anger me? The Gaon M'Vilna explains how we should respond if one of these did happen. He tells us that since all that happens to us is by Heavenly decree, it would be hating in vain if we despised a person who had offended us. He was only Hashem's messenger. Therefore, hating that person is, in reality, a form of hating Hashem.
      We must turn that hatred into love, and think about the positive attributes of the person we hate. The next time that we see that individual that we hate, we should try to be his best friend. Try at first to say come kind words to him. At first we will have to be acting, but after awhile, by acting as if we like him, we will truly come to like him and, thereby, conquer our Middah of hatred.(GTGTALH, R' Greiper, Based on the teachings of R' Avigdor Miller)

      This is how I came to realize what the meaning of Shabat was. This is why, now more than ever, I value my Shabat, which my family, which is Mexican has always held in high regard. The weekend is reserved for the patent leather Mary Janes, which I always had since childhood.

      January 18, 2012 at 23:24 | Report abuse |
  37. Jewish in Oregon

    IS this author out of her ever-loving mind?! The Torah defines lashon hara (evil tongue or gossip) to be the equivalent of murder! All we need to see is the type of things that are happening on Facebook and other social media to know that talking trash about others IS that serious – and can lead to suicide. At the very least, spreading rumors can ruin a person's reputation, marriage, any number of things. That's hardly "helping" to that person. If you want to help somebody, talk with THEM, not others. After all, you may not have all of the facts and talking with others only furthers your (likely) misinterpretation of another person.

    Besides, this study is flawed. The heart rates of the participants was artificially raised by gossip – somebody is not trustworthy. Then further gossip reduced it. Imagine that!!

    Much better that you don't do any gossip in the first place!!

    January 18, 2012 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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  38. MashaSobaka

    So what this article is basically saying is that (a) we behave better when we know someone might gossip about us and (b) that when our social group gossips about another we feel better and safer. How this translates to "good for us," I have no freaking idea. Gossip reinforces and promotes the social order among very limited, very separate groups of people. Throw those different groups together, and you don't have something positive. You have something overwhelmingly negative that can break entire social structures apart. And as for the whole thing about human beings only being good when there are consequences for bad behavior involved...yeah, that's nothing new. Everyone knows that EVERYONE is two seconds away from pure evil if they're promised that they won't be punished. That's how rape and torture and genocide became a part of everyday life. Ours is a brutal species. Anyone who hopes that gossip is going to save us from our own brutality is trying to catch a fish in the midair.

    January 18, 2012 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Saywhat?

    What a crock! When is gossip ever a good thing? If someone wanted to help someone else, gossiping about them to others is certainly not the way to do it. Also, people who gossip regularly (from my observation) are not doing it with any good intention. These studies were painfully small and serve only as proof that you can design a study to prove anything (my opinion).

    January 18, 2012 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Sarah Gonzales

    Having been the target of malicious gossip many times I hold firmly the belief that most of gossip is aimless and serves to highlight the negative about people. No one gossips about how nice or kind or respectful anyone is. Only when there is something juicy is gossip interesting... and that's why I don't do it.

    January 18, 2012 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. b

    The harm done by speech is even worse than the harm done by stealing or by cheating someone financially: money lost can be repaid, but the harm done by speech can never be repaired. For this reason, some sources indicate that there is no forgiveness for lashon ha-ra (disparaging speech). This is probably hyperbole, but it illustrates the seriousness of improper speech. A Chasidic tale vividly illustrates the danger of improper speech: A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, "Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds." The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, "Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers."

    January 18, 2012 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. b

    There are two mitzvot in the Torah that specifically address improper speech.

    Tale-bearing is, essentially, any gossip. The Hebrew word for tale-bearer is "rakhil" (Reish-Kaf-Yod-Lamed), which is related to a word meaning trader or merchant. The idea is that a tale-bearer is like a merchant, but he deals in information instead of goods. In our modern "Information Age," the idea of information as a product has become more clear than ever before, yet it is present even here in the Torah.

    It is said that the telling of gossip leads to bloodshed, which is why the next words in the Torah are "you shall not stand aside while your fellow's blood is shed." The story of Do'eig the Edomite (I Samuel Chs. 21-22) is often used to illustrate the harm that can be done by tale-bearing. Do'eig saw Achimelekh the Kohein give David bread and a sword, a completely innocent act intended to aid a leading member of Saul's court. Do'eig reported this to Saul. Do'eig's story was completely true, not negative, not secret, and Achimelekh would have told Saul exactly the same thing if asked (in fact, he did so later). Yet Saul misinterpreted this tale as proof that Achimelekh was supporting David in a rebellion, and proceeded to slaughter all but one of the kohanim at Nob.

    The person who listens to gossip is even worse than the person who tells it, because no harm could be done by gossip if no one listened to it. It has been said that lashon ha-ra (disparaging speech) kills three: the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told. (Talmud Arachin 15b).

    January 18, 2012 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Statepov

    Does the gossiper also explain just what is "selfish, exploitative" with facts backed up and inform everyone of the times they have been the same? Were heart rates elevated due to some other reason and lowered as a result of understanding their role? Or were these people simply relieved at meeting the study director's objectives? If "the threat of gossip served a purpose in making people work together" was that toward a worthy goal or just relief that the study director's inane game was ending so they could get their $10? How do these people react to other situations? Small samples,eh? Stop wasting time and money attempting to paint something that is very destructive as acceptable.

    January 19, 2012 at 07:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gripety

      Are you on your man period? Haven't gotten any in a while?

      January 19, 2012 at 19:29 | Report abuse |
    • Jewish in Oregon

      @Statepov Thanks for pointing out further methodological flaws with this study. CNN should be ashamed of pandering junk as "science"!

      @gripety – Thanks for your clearly reasoned and well articulated response to Statepov's message. It added so much to the discussion!

      January 19, 2012 at 19:54 | Report abuse |
  44. searcher6385

    So let me get this straight. Gossip is good. Bullying is Bad. OK, I got it.

    January 19, 2012 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • v

      gossiping is really just a from of social bullying...but CNN allways has to drag something from the depths of hades

      January 19, 2012 at 15:31 | Report abuse |
  45. Claire

    I think the harm gossip does far outweighs any benefits. Here's an idea - keep your mouth shut.

    January 19, 2012 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Diego

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    March 5, 2012 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
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