Do you feel like you're surrounded by gossipmongers, FNites? Gossip can ruin lives and reputations, but a new study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science shows it can help make people cooperative and generous too. According to the research done by Bianca Beersma and Gerben Van Kleef of the University of Amsterdam, the threat of gossip makes individuals less likely to be selfish.
In their experiment, Beersma and Van Kleef divided participants into groups and told them they had been selected to distribute cash-prize lottery tickets. Half of them were told others wouldn't know how many tickets they kept for themselves, while the other half were told their group members would be informed about their decisions. They were also alternately told that their group members had a tendency to gossip or were good secret keepers.
The results showed that while all participants showed a degree of selfishness (that is, they took more than their share of tickets), they became significantly more generous when their actions were public and had a bigger chance of getting gossiped about. "When the threat of gossip exists, group members can expect that they will be talked about if they decide to take a free ride," the researchers explain.
The lesson we think we see here? It's to keep things in your life transparent, whether it's in your job (such as letting your teammates and superiors know what you're doing and where you're going with your projects and the like), in your household finances or rules (such as letting people know that the "no swearing around the kids" rule applies to you and your husband as well as other people in the house), or in your friendships (such as being clear with your friends on where you stand on certain topics or situations). If you hold yourself accountable to others, you will probably find you make more of an effort to make sure you look good and do even better. It's the same principle behind letting people know about your new year's resolutions: if you're the only one who knows you aren't able to keep them, it's no big deal. But if other people are counting on you and encouraging you to keep them, it makes it that much more important to try harder.
Is one of your friends the target of gossip? Read this article for advice:
(Screencap from Mean Girls courtesy of Paramount Pictures)