Gossip as cultural learning

Roy F. Baumeister, Liqing Zhang, Kathleen D. Vohs

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

309 Scopus citations


To complement views of gossip as essentially a means of gaining information about individuals, cementing social bonds, and engaging in indirect aggression, the authors propose that gossip serves to help people learn about how to live in their cultural society. Gossip anecdotes communicate rules in narrative form, such as by describing how someone else came to grief by violating social norms. Gossip is thus an extension of observational learning, allowing one to learn from the triumphs and misadventures of people beyond one's immediate perceptual sphere. This perspective helps to explain some empirical findings about gossip, such as that gossip is not always derogatory and that people sometimes gossip about strangers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-121
Number of pages11
JournalReview of General Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004


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