It gets under our skinner, so who gossips and why?
Researchers found that younger people are more likely to gossip, and it is more likely to be negative
People spend an average of 52 minutes a day gossiping, and mainly about those they are familiar with.
A first study of its kind by the University of California explored who “skinners” the most, how often, and who they gossip about.
“There is a surprising dearth of information about who gossips and how, given public interest and opinion on the subject,” said lead researcher Megan Robbins.
The study asserts that women don’t engage in “tear-down” gossip any more than men, and that lower-income people don’t gossip more than their well-to-do counterparts.
It also found younger people were more likely to gossip negatively than their older counterparts, and that those who engaged in such behaviour did so for about 52 minutes on average.
“If you’re going to look at gossip like an academic, remove the value judgement we assign to the word.
“Gossip, in the academic’s view, is not bad. It’s simply talking about someone who isn’t present. That talk could be positive, neutral or negative,” said Robbins.
“With that definition, it would be hard to think of a person who never gossips because that would mean the only time they mention someone is in their presence,” explained Robbins.
A total of 467 people between the ages of 18 and 58 took part in the research – 269 women and 198 men. They wore a portable listening device that sampled what people said throughout the day.
About 10% of their conversations was recorded and analysed by researchers. In all, there were 4,003 instances of gossip.
They then filtered the gossip into three categories: positive, negative and neutral.
Among the results:
Younger people engage in more negative gossip than older adults;
About 14% of participants’ conversations were gossip, or just under an hour in 16 waking hours;
Negative gossip (604 instances) was twice as prevalent as positive (376).
Durban-based counselling psychologist Rakhi Beekrum explained that the “psychology of gossip is actually evolutionary, where it was considered protective to know everything about everyone in a particular group or tribe”.
“So gossip has not always had a negative connotation. Prehistoric humans needed to know everything about everyone in their tribe for their survival.”
But Beekrum admitted that nowadays “much of negative gossip is about one making themselves look good by painting a negative picture of someone else”.
She warned that gossip could lead to mistrust, have a negative effect on relationships or bring someone’s character into disrepute.
“Gossiping or listening to gossip can impact your mood negatively. Listening to gossip can cause your mind to think about things you didn’t think of before,” said Beekrum.
“Some forms of gossip may constitute bullying, and there can be serious consequences.”..