Friday, March 04, 2005

On that note: Gossip


I recently read an article on Gossip. The article came about because of a study commissioned by the UK telecom company BT Cellnet. BT commissioned the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), an independent and non-profit organisation that studies social and lifestyle issues, to conduct a study on 'mobile gossip".

The article written by By Kate Fox and entitled "Evolution, Alienation and Gossip The role of mobile telecommunications in the 21st century" (URL: focuses on nature of gossip and the role of technology, in this case mobile phone technology.

The article is interesting in that using a social science research methodology called triangulation, the use of three or more research methods (Previous studies, focus group and research) to study a phenomenon, the study was able to describe credibly the nature of gossip and human society.

The Main point or finding of the study is that Gossip is not a trivial thing we do, it is important to human social, psychological and even physical well-being.

At this point one should note that this study was done in the UK and as such will more accurately described the phenomenon there. Although I am quite sure if we did the study here in the Philippines we would get the similar result. Also, I have selected points in the article that I find interesting and I would advise people interested in the article to click on the URL site. So, here are the points in the article that I found interesting:

One, Gossip came from the word God-sibb, meaning a close friend or companion - literally a person related to one in God.(actually a good term for a friend.)

Two,Past studies define gossip as a a form of evaluative talk about person not present (Eder & Enke , 1991) or as accurately said by Noon & Delbridge (1993), " The process of informally communicating value-laden information about members of a social setting".

However, these definitions does not say that all gossip involves negative evaluation of others. In fact another study revealed that only five percent of gossip time and another five for questions on how to deal with social situations, majority of the gossip time were on general social experiences. Opinions were also positive. And such opinions were conyed subtly rather than explicitely in the tone of the voice.

And in certain cases gossip can be about oneself rather than others provided that it is socially interesting.

Three, Gossip about celebrities real or fictional are often indistinguishable from our gossip about friends, neighbours and family.

Four, Studies on human conversations reveals that about two thirds of our conversation is gossip. We spend and keep on spending 2/3 of our talking time to social topics: conversations of personal relationships and experiences; the who, what, why, where and how of society; queries and advice on how to deal with difficult social situations; Our relationships and behaviour with family, friends and celebrities; Personal problems with lovers, family, friends, colleagues and neighbours; the specifics of daily social life.

Five, Human males gossip as much as women.However, men tend to talk more about themselves.

Six, Risk-therapy. Enjoyment of gossip is also about the thrill of taking risk, doing something a bit naughty, talking about the private life of people.

Seven, Benefits of negative gossip. Although only five percent of gossip time is spent on criticism one should remember that it does have some benefits -a. Criticisms teach members of a group what are unacceptable behaviours and on certain occasions allow them to discuss what should be acceptable or unacceptable. Listening to critical gossip will allow you to avoidthe unseen social boundaries.b.Also, negative gossip strengthens the opinions and values the gossipers share and cement their friendship.

Eight, According to some evolutionary psychologists, Gossip in humans is comparable with the practice of 'social grooming' among chimps. And futher studies in Chimp 'social grooming' indicate that it has high social and therapeutic value since the level of endorphins in the chimp brains increase after social grooming. And perhaps gossip might have the same effect, I think.

References: Title: Evolution, Alienation and Gossip The role of mobile telecommunications in the 21st centuryAuthor: Kate FoxURL: Information: The research was commissioned by BT Cellnet © 2001 References used by the article References:Baldwin, M.W. (1992) Relational schemas and the processing of social information. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 461-484 Baxter, L.A., Dun, T. & Sahlstein, E. (2001) Rules for relating communicated among social network members. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 18(2), 173-199. Beach, W.A. (2000) Inviting collaborations in stories about a woman. Language in Society, 29(3), 379-407. Bergmann, J.R. (1993) Discreet Indiscretions: the Social Organisation of Gossip. Aldine de Gruyter. Dunbar, R. (1992) Why gossip is good for you. New Scientist, 28-31 Dunbar, R. (1996) Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language. Faber and Faber. Eder, D., & Enke, J. L. (1991) The structure of gossip: Opportunities and constraints on collective expression among adolescents. American Sociological Review, 56, 494-508. Emler, N. (1994) Gossip, reputation, and social adaptation. In Goodman, B.F. & Ben-Ze'ev, A. (Eds.), Good Gossip, 117-138. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press. Fulford, R. (2000) Gossip and the N.Y. intellectuals. National Post, Canada, July 18. Guendouzi, J. (2001) 'You'll think we're always bitching": the functions of cooperativity and competition in women's gossip. Discourse Studies, 3(1), 29-51. Jaeger, M.E., Skelder, A.A., Rind, B. & Rosnow, R.L. (1994) Gossip, gossipers, gossipees. In Goodman, B.F. & Ben-Ze'ev, A. (Eds.), Good Gossip, 154-168. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press. Jaeger, M.E., Skelder, A.A. & Rosnow, R.L. (1998) Who's up on the low down: Gossip in interpersonal relations. In Spitzberg, B.H. & Cupach, W.R. (Eds.). The Dark Side of Close Relationships, 103-117. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Japenga, A. (2000) Gossip: the social tie that binds. Web MD Medical News, September 04. Jones, Charlotte M. (1999) Shifting sands: Women, men and communication. Journal of Communication 49: 148-55 Kurland, N.B. & Pelled, L.H. (2000) Passing the word: toward a model of gossip and power in the workplace. Academy of Management Review, 25(2), 428-438. Levin, J. (1987) Gossip: the Inside Scoop. Plenum. Miller, G. (2000) The Mating Mind. Heinemann. Myerson, G. (2001) Heidegger, Habermas and the Mobile Phone. Icon Nolley, K. (1997) Finding alternatives to gossip: reflexivity and the paradigm of traditional documentary. Visual Anthropology, 9(3-4), 267-284. Noon, M. & Delbridge, R. (1993) News from behind my hand: Gossip in organizations. Organization Studies, 14, 23-36. O'Reilly, C.A. & Chatman, J.A. (1996) Culture as social control: Corporations, cults, and commitment. In Staw, B.M. & Cummings, L.L. (Eds.), Research in Organizational Behaviour, vol. 18, 157-200. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. Percival, J. (2000) Gossip in sheltered housing: its cultural importance and social implications. Ageing and Society, 20(3), 303-325. Rosnow, R.L. (1976) Rumour and Gossip: the Social Psychology of Hearsay. Elsevier. Sousa, R. (1994) In praise of gossip: Indiscretion as a saintly virtue. In Goodman, B.F. & Ben-Ze'ev, A. (Eds.), Good Gossip, 25-33. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press. White, L. (1994) Between Gluckman and Foucault: historicizing rumour and gossip. Social Dynamics, 20(1), 75-92.


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