Stanford Researchers: There's Good in Gossip

Talk all the mean smack you want, and when you're done, shun your friends.

It's good for them, according to a new Stanford study.

According to Prof. Robb Willer, these forms of behavior that many consider "malicious" in fact can have "very positive effects," according to a news release from the university.

It turns out that groups that talk share information, they figure out how members of the group behave. Then, armed with that information, they figure out who to get close to -- and who to avoid, according to the study, published in journal Psychological Science.

In this case, gossip earns a gussied-up term: "reputational information sharing."

Willer says that such behavior may be encouraged even in the workplace, where the office scuttlebutt would quickly identify -- and isolate -- someone who was stealing from the kitchen coffee fund, for example.

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