Word on the street is that gossip is the worst. An Ann Landers advice column once characterized it as “the faceless demon that breaks hearts and ruins careers.” The Talmud describes it as a “three-pronged tongue” that kills three people: the teller, the listener, and the person being gossiped about. And Blaise Pascal observed, not unreasonably, that “if people really knew what others said about them, there would not be four friends left in the world.” Convincing as these indictments seem, however, a significant body of research suggests that gossip may in fact be healthy.
It’s a good thing, too, since gossip is pretty pervasive. Children tend to be seasoned gossips by the age of 5, and gossip as most researchers understand it—talk between at least two people about absent others—accounts for about two-thirds of conversation. In the 1980s, the journalist Blythe Holbrooke took a stab at bringing rigor to the subject, tongue firmly in cheek, by positing the Law of Inverse Accuracy: C = (TI)^v – t, in which the likelihood of gossip being circulated (C) equals its timeliness (T) times its interest (I) to the power of its unverifiability (v) minus the reluctance someone might feel about repeating it out of taste (t).
Read the whole story: The Atlantic