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People gossip 52 minutes a day. But it is not all bad

By USA Today (TNS) - May 16,2019 - Last updated at May 16,2019

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People spend nearly an hour each day gossiping, but most of our behind-the-back chatter is not necessarily negative. That is according to a new study that reveals just who is most likely to dish on others and why.

University of California–Riverside researchers looked at 467 people who wore portable recorders that picked up bits of their conversations for two to five days, the university said in a release. Those snippets were then analysed for overall gossipiness.

What they found: The average person gossips for 52 minutes a day, but only about 15 per cent of the gossip picked up in the study was negative.

“We actually found that the overwhelming majority of gossip was neutral,” Megan Robbins, study co-author and UC Riverside psychologist, told NPR.

“About three-quarters of the conversation we heard in our sampled conversations was neither positive nor negative,”

The recorders picked up about 10 per cent of participants’ conversations, the university said. Anything spoken about a person not present counted as gossip, which research assistants then rated as positive, negative or neutral.

Women gossip more than men, the study found, but only on neutral, information-focused topics — think updates about a niece’s job or a friend’s cancer treatment. Younger people sling more negative gossip than older adults, the data showed.

People are way less likely to gossip about celebrities like Kim Kardashian than they are about an acquaintance like Kim from accounting, the study found.

And, unsurprisingly, extroverts are more likely than introverts to gossip whether positive, negative or in-between.

People often imagine gossips to be poorer and uneducated, the authors said, but the study found those with less education and wealth do not gossip more than wealthier, more educated people.

“These naturalistic observation findings dispel some stereotypes about this prevalent yet misunderstood behaviour,” the study’s authors said.

The study was published earlier this month in the peer-reviewed journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

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