While women have long had the reputation of being the bigger gossips of the two sexes, new research has shown that gossiping between men can help cement their friendships.
According to a study by Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada, women tend to chat about “social information” – such as who’s dating who or who’s having problems at work – as well as people’s appearances.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to talk about achievements, and this is how they build their bonds.
In the study, Dr David C Watson, an assistant professor of psychology, asked 167 female and 69 male college students to answer questionnaires about friendship and their tendency to gossip.
"I was surprised to find that the relationship between friendship and gossip was different for men compared to women," he says. "The male friendship is more characterised by engaging in group activities, so gossip can serve to enhance the bond between individuals within the group.”
Men become closer when they have a sense of status, which Watson says can come from knowing the latest gossip. “Possession of knowledge and control of information is a method of attaining status,” he explains.
But amongst women, gossip doesn’t appear to have any impact on friendship quality.
"Female friendships are more characterised by communion or intimacy," Watson says. "Gossip can be more of a threat to the relationship than it is in male friendships."
The study participants were aged 17 to 29 and Watson says results could vary with an older sample group.