Why prolific gossipers are not popular

Gossip might be the social glue that binds us, but prolific proponents of tittle-tattle should beware - gossipers are perceived not just as unlikeable but also as lacking social influence.

Sally Farley made her finding after asking 128 participants (mostly female students) to imagine someone they knew, who either did or didn't gossip a lot, and to rate that person for likeability and social influence, plus there were 21 other distracter items. To further conceal the true aims of the study, the actual word "gossip" was never used. Instead, participants were told the research was about "informal communication" and the specific instruction was to think of someone who "spent a lot of time (or little time) talking about other people when they were not around". Among those participants asked to imagine a gossiper, a further detail was to imagine someone who either said negative things or positive things about people in their absence.

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