Gossiping Psychology

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Gossiping is more than a guilty pleasure—it has a great deal of social influence. 

 

It’s actually an element of human social behavior and is very ingrained in the nature of friendship. This is especially true in the small social bubble of college where people tend to have plenty of mutual friends and acquaintances. 

 

Though gossiping can be branded as negative and hurtful, it has actually proven to be extremely effective in social bonding.  Sharing secret information with a friend (whether this information is dramatic or otherwise) reveals a certain level of trust that he or she won’t repeat or relay what you’ve told them.  In addition, gossiping is unique for its ability to allow you to become closer to people you are interacting with—more so than neutral or casual topics.

 

Researchers from the University of Pavia in Italy created a study to test the effects of gossiping on happiness and friendships, and found that gossiping causes the human brain to release significantly higher levels of oxytocin.  Oxytocin is the pleasure hormone linked to happiness and helps in the creation of emotional bonds.  In this experiment, 22 female students were split into two test groups—in the gossip group, an actress guided the conversation to an unplanned pregnancy on campus, while the neutral group conversed about a sports injury.  They were both personal stories, but one was innocuous while the other was cause for gossip.  Oxytocin levels were significantly higher in the group that gossiped about the unplanned pregnancy.

 

Increases in oxytocin lead us to create deeper social bonds, and, thus, gossiping with your friends can actually bring you closer together. So, while it’s important to be careful not to harm anyone with your words, gossiping can actually make you happier.