Exploring the elements of gossip

What is gossip?

Gossip is any information someone shares about a person who is not there. Gossip can be partially negative, fully negative, partially neutral, fully neutral, partially positive or fully positive. These classifications are based on how people perceive the content. Potential topics of gossip include comments on physical appearance, achievements and social information about either people they know or celebrities.


Why do we gossip?

Gossip is a natural topic of conversation when interacting with others. Reasons for gossiping range from pro-self to prosocial. Pro-self motives for gossip are defined by desires to derive personal benefits, whereas prosocial motives bring benefits to the receiver of gossip, the subject of gossip or a larger group. Specific motives for gossiping on a range of pro-self to prosocial may include negatively influencing the opinion of the subject of gossip in the eyes of the receiver, emotion venting, social bonding and protecting the receiver of gossip. Using gossip for gathering and validating social information stems from a neutral motivation as collected information can be used to validate or challenge what someone already knows. People may also gossip in an effort to manipulate the reciever’s perception of them.


What are impacts of gossip?

Gossip can serve as entertainment but can also help people learn more about those around them. One of the main functions of gossip is to give people information about others they would not ordinarily receive. Gossiping allows the receiver to learn new and different information about a person that the receiver previously would not have known. Gossip can also allow receivers to be warned about others so they can prepare themselves for interactions. When people do not want to be the subject of gossip, they may change their behavior.