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Have You Heard? Men and Women Gossip 52 Minutes a Day – Study

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Couple talking while sitting on a dock - Sputnik International
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The idea of gossip may leave a bad taste in your mouth, but a recent social psychology study found that not only do people engage in idle talk about each other for almost an hour a day, but most of the behind-the-back chat is not as bad as most would assume.

From sharing facts to spreading rumors, gossip is part of virtually everyone's daily schedule, despite the false stereotypes that gossipers are usually uneducated, typically women and of a lower socioeconomic status.

In examining conversations for "gossip," a new study conducted by two psychologists from the University of California, Riverside, says that although men and women, on average, spend about 52 minutes a day chit-chatting, most "gossip" turned out to be quite neutral.

Surveying 269 women and 198 men between the ages of 18 and 58, psychologists Megan Robbins and Alexander Karan equipped each research subject with an Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) and recorded sound files of their everyday conversations with others, according to the article posted in SAGE Journals.

Findings from 4,000 recordings of 467 respondents revealed that gossip topics tended to be neutra. Women, in fact, engaged in more neutral gossip than men did. 

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The social study found only about 15% of gossip picked up from the recordings was negative, with younger individuals being more prone to dish dirt or speak negatively behind someone's back.

Psychologist William Cone from Williams College responded to the results of the study and noted how interesting it is that gossip, usually thought to be inherently negative, was actually pretty humdrum.

"We share tons and tons of social information," Cone explained to NPR, adding that "much of it is just documenting facts, sharing information."

Examples of this fact-sharing would include telling a friend about your daughter's recent award, sharing the news of a relative's promotion, or just communicating mundane, everyday information about other people.

Elena Martinescu, a postdoctoral researcher across the pond from the US at King's College London, researched gossip in the workplace and found it to actually be a useful tool if utilized properly. 

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"When you gossip, you can keep track of who is contributing to the group and who's being selfish," Martinescu asserted to NPR. "And by sharing this information, you can exclude those group members who are social loafers."

Speaking to the Washington Times about her study, Robbins highlighted and dispelled a stereotype that those who happen to be poor are more likely to gossip. In fact, Robbins pointed out that "regardless how much money people have, they gossip the same amount." 

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