Everybody complains about the slacker in a workplace who gossips about their colleagues. But what if the gossip is actually a device for sharing information about free-riders? And what if sharing information results in an equilibrium with fewer shirkers?
More than 220 students were asked to describe the last time they talked about someone behind their backs and then fill in a questionnaire about their motives for doing so. It found that gathering or checking information was the most important motive.
A second study involving the same participants asked whether they would gossip about somebody who was shirking their share of work to a colleague or friend who they bumped into. People were more likely to gossip about shirkers to colleagues – who belong to the same group as the shirker and the person spreading the gossip – than to friends.
When people thought someone was gossiping about a shirker in order to protect their group they viewed the act of gossiping as more social and less immoral than in other situations.
Via The Daily Mail, so make of that what you will!