Gossip can promote self-reflection and growth

Posted on October 27, 2014

Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands conducted two studies to examine the effects of positive and negative gossip on the person hearing the gossip.

The researchers found that individuals who heard positive gossip had increased self-improvement value, while negative gossip increased self-promotion value. Negative gossip also increased self-protection concerns, according to the study’s findings.

For example, hearing positive stories about others may be informative, because they suggest ways to improve oneself. Hearing negative gossip may be flattering, because it suggests that others — the gossip target — may function less well than we do.

However, negative gossip may also be threatening to the self, because it suggests a malign social environment in which one may easily fall victim to negative treatments. Negative gossip also elicited pride due to its self-promotion value, since it provides individuals with social comparison information that justifies self-promotional judgments, according to the researchers. Negative gossip also elicits fear and anxiety due to increased self-protection concerns, since individuals may worry that their reputation could be at risk if they become targets of negative gossip in the future, the researchers added.

Gender differences between men and women were also observed. Women who receive negative gossip experience higher self-protection concerns, possibly because they believe they might experience a similar fate as the person being the target of the gossip, while men who receive positive gossip experience higher fear, perhaps because upward social comparisons with competitors are threatening.

Instead of eliminating gossip, the researchers suggest that individuals should accept gossip as a natural part of our lives and receive it with a critical attitude regarding the consequences it may have on ourselves and on others.

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Source material from Psych Central

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