Gossip Could Lower Stress And Prevent Exploitation, Study Suggests

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Gossip may not be as evil as society makes it out to be, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that gossiping can actually lower stress, stop exploitation of others and police others' bad behavior.

The study included four experiments, all of which included a game with a cheater who hoarded points.

Researchers found that when people in the study saw someone acting badly, their heart rates increased. But researchers found that it helped their heart rates when they were able to share what they witnessed with someone else, particularly to warn them of the potential exploitation.

"Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip," study researcher Robb Willer, a social psychologist at UC Berkeley, said in a statement.

In addition, researchers found that people in the study were even willing to sacrifice money in order to let other people know of cheaters who were players in economic trust games -- in this case, gossiping was a means of preventing other people from being taken advantage of, said study researcher Matthew Feinberg, who is also a social psychologist at UC Berkeley.

The research is published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In 2009, a study showed that gossiping constitutes up to 80 percent of our conversations, the New York Daily News reported. That study, which included 300 people, showed that only about 5 percent of all gossip is actually malicious.

"People can use gossip to drag someone under the bus, or it can help establish trust in someone," relationship expert Andrea Syrtash told the Daily Newstold the Daily News. "But it's worth being careful. If someone is always giving you the dirt on other people, then you're part of the mix when she talks to someone else. Be careful how much information you share."

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