The Scoop on Relationship Gossip
Singles Aren't the Only People Interested in the Dish on Singles of the Opposite Sex
WebMD News Archive
June 7, 2007 -- Single or not, people tend to remember juicy gossip about
the relationships of potential mates.
That's according to Charlotte de Backer, PhD, a lecturer in the media and
communication studies department at England's University of Leicester.
Why should people in relationships care about singles' romantic life?
Perhaps they are "aware, to some degree, of [other people] who may serve as
potential mates and as threats," de Backer says in a University of
Leicester news release.
Gossip is at the heart of de Backer's graduate thesis in communication
studies. In the thesis, de Backer calls gossip "chocolate for the
mind," since "gossip is tempting and first boosts our happiness but can
turn out bad [in] the long run."
The thesis, posted online, includes a study of relationship gossip in 84
undergraduate students at Belgium's University of Antwerp.
The students were about 19 years old, on average. Roughly half of them were
in long-term relationships when the study was conducted in 2004-2005.
First, de Backer asked the students to imagine that they were about to get
hired to work in an office. Next, she gave them a brochure to read about their
imaginary future co-workers.
The brochure contained gossipy details from a fictional employee in the
same imaginary office.
Inquiring Minds Want to Know
The fictional co-workers included "Stephanie," who was described as
a single, rebellious, attractive graphic designer; "Carine," a jealous
secretary; "Jean-Paul," the soon-to-be-divorced boss; and
"Ricardo," a handsome graphic designer described as a "party
The students read the profiles for 10-15 minutes. Then de Backer distracted
the students giving the students an unrelated survey.
After the students completed the survey, de Backer surprised them with a pop
quiz on their imaginary co-workers.
The quiz results show that, contrary to de Backer's predictions, single
students weren't more likely than students in long-term relationships to
remember gossip about characters of the opposite sex.
In addition, male and female students tended to remember whether their
imaginary female co-workers were described as being physically attractive.
The students didn't appear to pay as much attention to whether their
imaginary male co-workers were physically attractive.
The study doesn't prove that the students viewed their imaginary co-workers
as potential boyfriends or girlfriends. More studies could provide further
details on exactly what parts of relationship gossip are most tantalizing, de
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