Study reports gossip may improve individual health and group behavior

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There may be a new answer to stress — gossiping.

A study released Jan. 9 by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that gossiping may decrease stress and that people gossip in order to help others.

This knowledge could be helpful to the 26.4 percent of Marquette students who reported that stress has affected their academic performance, according to the Marquette Center for Health Education and Promotion.

Participants in the study played games in which a cheater unfairly collected points. Researchers found that when the cheater collected their points, the other participants’ heart rates increased. When participants were able to ‘gossip’ about the game, their heart rates lowered. Participants’ heart rates were the lowest when they were trying to warn others of cheating.

Although gossip is often viewed as trivial or even anti-social, the study results show gossip can be pro-social and necessary for fairness and cooperation in groups, said study researcher Robb Willer, a social psychologist at UC Berkeley, in a statement.

“Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip,” Willer said.

A 2009 study showed that up to 80 percent of our conversations are gossip, according to the New York Daily News. The study also said only about 5 percent of all gossip is intended for harm.

Students agreed that gossiping is prevalent on Marquette’s campus.

Jasmine Baker, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she thinks gossiping can be a stress reliever.

“Gossiping can be a form of venting, which can relieve stress,” Baker said. “Gossiping about others is negative, but it may make you feel better.”

Many students, however, feel gossip only creates more stress.

Kelly Rasmussen, a freshman in the College of Communication, said she doesn’t think the results of the study are true.

“Gossiping creates stress,” Rasmussen said. “The more you gossip, the more stress you have, and it always comes back to you.”

Students agreed with researchers in that gossiping is a social activity.

Charlie Hoover, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, said he thinks people gossip to feel involved.

“It’s social backup for when people don’t have anything else to talk about,” Hoover said. He said people mostly gossip about mistakes others make.

Meghan McNamara, a sophomore in the College of Nursing, agreed that gossiping gives people something to talk about.

“When people gossip they are usually just bored,” McNamara said. She said people mostly gossip about others’ love lives.

Chris Hardin, a freshman in the College of Engineering, said students use gossip as a way to get and spread news.

“They aren’t trying to be mean,”  Hardin said. “People just want to know what their friends are doing and who they are doing it with.”

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