“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”
So said Socrates all those years ago. But it seems the founding father of Western philosophy didn’t know everything: according to some new research, gossiping could actually a good thing.
Anyone who’s seen Mean Girls and (of course) Gossip Girl might assume that the long-term effects of gossiping are always negative, and that gossips do not have the best of intentions when they start spilling salacious details by the water cooler.
However a group of Stanford researchers (possibly keen to justify their own gossipy behaviour) have studied the behavioural outcome of gossiping in group contexts and, as it turns out, gossiping can actually be a positive tool.
When used effectively, it can stamp out bullying, protect “nice people” and encourage group cooperation.
Speaking in Psychological Science, lead researcher Matthew Feinberg said: “Groups that allow their members to gossip sustain cooperation and deter selfishness better than those that don't.
“And groups do even better if they can gossip and ostracise untrustworthy members. While both of these behaviours can be misused, our findings suggest that they also serve very important functions for groups and society.”
Hmm, that makes sense, we guess – nobody wants to become the focus of negative gossip.
But there’s another very good reason to get your teeth stuck into some serious tattling, and it’s this: gossiping can make you feel good.
The University of Pavia conducted some research earlier this year into the effects of gossiping, on women solely, and they discovered that chit-chatting with friends and co-workers causes the brain to release a biochemical known as oxytocin.
As in, yes, the same ‘cuddle chemical’ that’s released after sex.
Dr Natasha Brondino, who led the study, explained that oxytocin helps bring people closer together, as it engenders feelings of trust, friendship, love and generosity.
Consider us convinced. Step aside, Dan Humphrey: there’s a new Gossip Girl in town...
Images: Rex Features