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Guys Are Gossips Too, Study Finds
Excerpt By K.L. Capozza, Reuter's Health

Long considered the domain of women, gossip may be just as likely to be spread by the mouths of men, new study findings suggest.

 

What's more, men seem to take greater satisfaction from dishing dirt, which makes them feel empowered, popular and in tight with their buddies, results showed.

"Men have fewer social interactions than women, but proportionately speaking, they gossip just as much," said Holly Hom, a graduate student in psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

"These findings go against our general notion of who gossips more and what people get out of gossip," Hom told Reuters Health. "Women are getting a bad rap, I think."

In a study reported here at a recent meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Hom and a colleague asked 51 college students to keep a diary for seven days, recording details and feelings of every social interaction that lasted at least 10 minutes.

Of the interactions that involved gossip about someone else, the discussions centered on relationship conflict, deceptive behavior, personal failure, sexual behavior or special achievements, findings revealed. In about half of the cases, the conversation was critical of others.

When asked why they gossiped, it appeared that men had more to gain than women. Men were more likely to say that telling gossip made them feel empowered, popular and close to their friends. They also were more likely to say that gossiping gave them a better understanding of behavioral standards, including an improved sense of right and wrong.

So gossip may actually have a good side. "It helps us to strengthen social bonds and pass on social norms," Hom said.

Still, both men and women felt a greater elevation in status when hearing critical rather than positive or neutral gossip. Men, however, were more likely than women to feel remorse after hearing negative gossip.

In a separate study, the researchers surveyed 73 college students about what defines gossip and how they perceive it.

Overall, participants said the main purpose of gossip is to entertain.

Key elements of good gossip were negative tone, moral subject matter (such as someone's sex life), an established relationship with the person being gossiped about and talk that has no direct impact on the lives of the gossipers.

"When you have all of these present," Hom said, "that's the juiciest gossip."


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