Why Gossip Is Good For You (Seriously) – Refinery29

Of course, you are also likely to reform if you are the subject of gossip. Researchers at Stanford University and the University of California–Berkeley found that subjects, when given the opportunity, readily gossiped about others who were untrustworthy in a financial game, which in turn led the cheaters to play nice to get back into everyone’s good graces. The conclusion was that organisations that allow their members to gossip will be more cooperative and deter selfishness better than those that don’t. This is the case even when the gossip is not always entirely true. Social psychology and economics researchers in Australia and the UK collaborated on a study that showed any kind of gossip, accurate or not so accurate, creates a demand for “reputability.” They had subjects play a trust-based game involving the distribution of rewards, and when people could freely impugn or praise the integrity of fellow players, even if falsely, they behaved better and operated more efficiently compared to those who were not allowed to gossip. The researchers observed that inaccuracies were most often motivated by a desire to more severely punish bad actors (people sometimes made cheaters sound worse than they were). There’s also the thought that listening to how people talk about others, true or untrue, may say as much, or more, about them than the people they are talking about.

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