Heavens to lets-not-talk-about Betsy!

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
May 23, 2019
Black-and-White Gossiping Photo
Credit: Lambert/Getty Images

We're spending more time at the water cooler than we think.

New research from University of California - Riverside has determined that we spend an estimated average of 52 minutes a day gossiping. In addition to how much time we spend chattering about others, psychologists set out to see the nature of the gossip (positive, negative, or neutral) and to debunk myths about chitchatting (for instance, do women really engage in more "tear-down" gossip than men?).

"There is a surprising dearth of information about who gossips and how, given public interest and opinion on the subject," said Megan Robbins, an assistant psychology professor who led the study along with Alexander Karan, a graduate student in her lab, in a press release on Science Daily. The study was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science earlier this month.

For their study, researchers looked at data from 467 people between the ages of 18 and 58 years old who took part in one of five studies using a portable recorder that recorded samples of conversations throughout the day. The researchers recorded 4,000+ instances of gossip, which they defined as talking about someone who isn't present — whether a colleague, friend, family member, or even celebrity.

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Their findings were fascinating. They discovered that younger people spend more time gossiping negatively about others than older people. They also determined that 14% of participants' conversations were gossip, which amounted to nearly an hour in 16 waking hours. Overall, three-quarters of the gossip recorded was neutral in nature, though negative gossip was nearly double the amount of positive gossip.

And no, women don't engage in more smack talk than men. They did find, however, that women gossip more frequently than men, but only in a "neutral, information-sharing" way.

When in doubt, we still think we'll stick to mama's adage: If you don't have anything nice to say...