Long considered the domain of women, gossip may be
just as likely to be spread by the mouths of men, new
study findings suggest.
'Men have fewer social interactions than women, but
proportionately speaking, they gossip just as much,'
said Holly Hom, a graduate student in psychology at
the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
In a study reported here at a recent meeting of the
Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Hom and
a colleague asked 51 college students to keep a diary
for seven days, recording details and feelings of every
social interaction that lasted at least 10 minutes.
Of the interactions that involved gossip about someone
else, the discussions centered on relationship conflict,
deceptive behavior, personal failure, sexual behavior
or special achievements, findings revealed. In about
half of the cases, the conversation was critical of
When asked why they gossiped, it appeared that men
had more to gain than women. Men were more likely to
say that telling gossip made them feel empowered, popular
and close to their friends. They also were more likely
to say that gossiping gave them a better understanding
of behavioral standards, including an improved sense
of right and wrong.
Still, both men and women felt a greater elevation
in status when hearing critical rather than positive
or neutral gossip. Men, however, were more likely than
women to feel remorse after hearing negative gossip.
In a separate study, the researchers surveyed 73
college students about what defines gossip and how they
Overall, participants said the main purpose of gossip
is to entertain.