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February 26, 2008

BehindTheMedspeak: 'Mindless gossip feeds the brain'

According to a survey last year by Randstad USA, 60% of employees said gossip is their biggest annoyance at work.

Huh.

All those unhappy campers might be surprised to learn that scientists have recently demonstrated that gossip is just as good as directed mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual performance.

Oscar Ybarra of the University of Michigan was the lead author of a paper with that very conclusion.

The work appeared in the January, 2008 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; the abstract follows.

    Mental Exercising Through Simple Socializing: Social Interaction Promotes General Cognitive Functioning

    Social interaction is a central feature of people's life and engages a variety of cognitive resources. Thus, social interaction should facilitate general cognitive functioning. Previous studies suggest such a link, but they used special populations (e.g., elderly with cognitive impairment), measured social interaction indirectly (e.g., via marital status), and only assessed effects of extended interaction in correlational designs. Here the relation between mental functioning and direct indicators of social interaction was examined in a younger and healthier population. Study 1 using survey methodology found a positive relationship between social interaction, assessed via amount of actual social contact, and cognitive functioning in people from three age groups including younger adults. Study 2 using an experimental design found that a small amount of social interaction (10 min) can facilitate cognitive performance. The findings are discussed in the context of the benefits social relationships have for so many aspects of people's lives.

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Read the original paper here.

February 26, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Comments

Gossip has a negative connotation. This bit of research clearly indicates that the terminology should change (as dysrhythmia properly replaced arrhythmia (for hearts that are still beating)). I propose the adoption of, "contemporary oral history" to replace "gossip" in both the vernacular and scientific worlds.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Feb 27, 2008 8:10:05 AM

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