Everyone says gossip is bad but does that really mean there are no benefits attached to gossiping?

A Stanford study published in the journal, Psychological Science claims that the conventional wisdom that holds that gossip undermines trust and morale in a group isn’t always true.

The research carried out by Robb Willer, an associate professor of sociology in collaboration with co-authors Matthew Feinberg, a Stanford University postdoctoral researcher, and Michael Schultz from the University of California–Berkeley showed that gossip can have very positive effects. They are tools by which groups reform bullies, thwart exploitation of “nice people” and encourage cooperation.

According to the researchers, groups that allow their members to gossip sustain cooperation and deter selfishness better than those that don’t.

The researchers also claimed that groups do even better if they can gossip and ostracize untrustworthy members. Though the researchers acknowledge it can be misused, they also believe gossip can also serve very important functions for groups and society.

The researchers claim information gotten from gossip can be really useful. According to the researchers, when people learn – through gossip – about the behavior of others, they use this information to align with those deemed cooperative. Those who have behaved selfishly can then be excluded from group activities, based on the prevailing gossip.

216 participants were involved in the study.

So what are your thoughts about the study?