Narrator: This is Science Today. Gossip, and people who gossip, tend to get a bad rap in today's society. But a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that rumor-mongering can actually have positive outcomes. Psychologist Robb Willer, who coauthored the study, says that gossip plays a key role in maintaining social order.
Willer: If you imagined a world without gossip, imagine a world where you couldn't pass on evaluative information about other people's good and bad behavior at all. In that kind of world, you'd be sort of forced to develop all of your own information with everybody in your community. You'd have to interact with them on your own, and get no extra information on whether the person was trustworthy or not. And so you'd have to build every one of those relationships, from stranger to friend, from scratch. That would be a very inefficient world.
Narrator: Willer said their study was one of the first to focus on what he calls "pro-social" gossip. This refers to gossip that has the function of warning others about untrustworthy or dishonest people. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.