We Gossip 52 Minutes a Day, But This Study Found It’s Not All Toxic Talk

Gather 'round: It’s time to talk gossip!

By: Amanda Mushro
85406525

85406525

Photo by: Paul Bradbury

Paul Bradbury

We spend nearly an hour every day entangled in gossip with our friends, family or co-workers. However, research shows that this hour of hot topics isn’t all trash talking. So, who gossips more and why do we do it? The answers may surprise you.

According to a new study in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal, researchers had 467 people wear portable recorders that would pick up portions of their conversations for two to five days. Those conversations were then analyzed for gossip, which was considered talking about a person who was not present or part of the conversation.

Research assistants then rated each conversation as positive, negative or neutral. What they found was that the average person gossips for 52 minutes a day. That’s almost an hour a day that is dedicated to gossip. However, only 15 percent of the gossip was negative.

"We actually found that the overwhelming majority of gossip was neutral," author of the study, Megan Robbins, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, told NPR. "About three-quarters of the conversation we heard in our sampled conversations was neither positive nor negative."

However, don’t expect the negative portion to be a bashing session on the lady that lives three houses down or on another co-worker. Researchers say that women’s gossip is mostly neutral and based on information-focused topics. So, they were sharing family updates or talking about a sick friend.

When it comes to who does more gossiping — turns out, men and women equally love to be a part of the extra chit-chat. So, while women often get a bad rap for gossip, men are gossiping just as much.

Researchers did report that younger people are more likely to serve up some negative gossip than older adults, and extroverts are more likely to spend time gossiping than introverts.

While gossip can have real negative consequences, a similar study suggests hearing negative gossip about yourself in the workplace may help you become a better employee. Once you overcome the feelings of hurt and distrust, researchers say you will be more likely to self-reflect and make changes. So, if there are whispers in the office about your constant tardiness, you are more likely to make an effort to get to work on time.

The study makes us think about how we spend our time communicating with others. For those days we say there isn’t enough time to get everything done, maybe we can shave a few minutes off our gossip time to be more productive.

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