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GOSSIP - Essay Example

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Gossip: Pernicious Evil or Essential to Survival? Gossip. The very word brings back feelings of high school, where cliquish groups whispered and disparaged others who were not in the group. The word also brings connotations of workplaces, where disgruntled employees disparage their higher ups with insults about competence…
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Download file to see previous pages... For Dunbar (2004), gossip’s function is to weed out unscrupulous individuals which, in turn, helps the species to propagate. These two theories are examined in depth below. The first theory that will be examined is one put forth by Wert and Salovey in their article “A Social Comparison Account of Gossip” (Wert & Salovey, 2004). Wert & Salovey state that gossip has a function in social comparison theory, which states that we, as human beings, have a need to compare ourselves to others, because, by doing this, we are evaluating ourselves by actual, objective criteria (Wert & Salovey, 2004, p. 123). Wert & Salovey’s theory is helpful to understand why people gossip in a negative way, despite the fact that such gossip may backfire on the gossiper because the people hearing the gossip may feel threatened because the gossiper probably negatively talks about the hearer in the same way (Kurland & Pelled, 2000, p. 429). The six types of this kind of social comparison, and how gossip functions in each, are defined below. The first kind of comparison examined is the comparison with similar others. Gossip serves a function is this kind of comparison, because individuals are trying to figure out how to behave and act, and how not to behave and act, by comparing themselves to these similar peers. ...
This kind of comparison is sought to make people feel better about themselves – as in thinking “my life isn’t great, but look at that person – my life certainly could get worse” (Wert & Salovey, 2004, p. 125). Gossiping serves a purpose in this kind of comparison, because it provides a way to indirectly compare oneself to others who are less fortunate or less skilled then oneself, and this bolster’s one’s self-esteem (Wert & Salovey, 2004, p. 125). The third type of social comparison is the upward social comparison, in which one compares oneself to others higher on the proverbial totem pole. One of the functions of this kind of gossip is to tear down the wealthy person if one does not have a chance to attain the wealth for oneself, and this can result from a feeling of injustice, in that the person does not “deserve” his or her wealth(Wert & Salovey, 2004, p. 127). The fourth type is in-group and out-group comparisons. This is a classic “them v. us” comparison. In this case, gossip serves the purpose of making the out-group seem negative, in order to bolster the in-group, and the individuals’ sense of identity that comes from belonging to the in-group (Wert & Salovey, 2004, pp. 127-128). It also establishes who is and who is not a part of the group, as well as establishing the norms for the in-group (Wert & Salovey, 2004, p. 128). Baumeister et al., (2004) refers to this as gossip as cultural learning, in that people in a given culture may learn more about their own culture by relating the successes and failures of others, both within and without that culture (Baumeister et al, 2004, p. 120). Related to in-group and out-group comparisons is the fifth type of social comparison, which is constructed social comparisons, in which an ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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