« Freakonomics Radio

152. Everybody Gossips (and That’s a Good Thing)

2014-01-23 | 🔗
The benefits of rumor-mongering
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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An original, can you look back to when he met the one you loved him, remember exactly how it was peering through me. So brothers joined the army, Tom HOLLAND? I have this. Joys of some sometimes have already seen everything else can have I bear Sherry Radar, just remember, an apple tv plus frigate radio sponsored by three M, what do the adhesives used in both posted? No in aeroplanes have in common. They both made with innovations from three m. In fact, there are lots of three M products hiding in plain sight that you might not realise, including in Lending I've respirators in response to that the banking pandemic three M has increased respirator prick. Option to make more respirators than ever before, helping those on the front
I now continue the fight learn more at three m dot: com, slash covert. Thomas Coralie has made a habit, a career really of studying the difference between rich people in port. Ready for pursuing the wealthy wake up three hours before work starts versus three percent for the poor corlears, an accountant and a financial plan or New Jersey. He wrote a book called rich habits. The daily success habits of wealthy individuals did five years with the research. I rented you two hundred thirty three wealthy people on a hundred poor people, and when I was done there is about a hundred forty nine metrics that I followed or a track by wealthy coral means: annual income over a hundred, sixty thousand dollars and net liquid assets of three point: two million by poor. He means
become less than thirty five thousand dollars in net liquid assets of less than five thousand. There were a lot of differences between these two groups. Wealthy people spend thirty minutes or more every morning, doing technical reading some type of technical self improvement. Reading to keep track of things O. Eighty one percent of the wealthy maintain a to do list versus nineteen percent for the poor really found that rich people exercise more eat healthier. Ninety seven percent of the poor people in my study, ate more than three hundred good calories day. Seventy percent of the wealthy eight less than three hundred junk food calories per day, and you know it courtly found that really surprised him. It has to do with here. I'll give you a hint
did you hear the release of Gaza that I always one talk about. I heard that she was pregnant, everyone heard about it and he chose to sleep with everyone at the post. I need to talk about a certain, one in our dance closet, please. I know exactly who is really six percent the wealthy gossip. Compare that seventy nine percent of the poor who gossip this is one of those habits that really sticks out like that Grand Canyon of differences that I saw. This is one that really sends a message home that wealthy people poor people do. Certain things differently. On a daily basis, gossip happens, one of them
from W, and my see this is free economics, radio, the pot cast that explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your host, Stephen Governor, today show is about gossip spout. What gossip is or isn't about the characteristics of the people who produce it consume. It spent the functions of gossip, all of which sounds pretty. Scientists Yes, well, let me lower your expectations. We came into the thinking. We could answer these questions scientifically and we will put into what science there is on the topic. But honestly, there isn't much good science about gossip, yet which sort of surprising, considering how long gossip has been around, which we had to guess
probably about as long as humans have been around. So let's start with the idea that we heard about a minute ago from the rich habits- author, Tom Courtly, who told us that the rich gossip much less than the poor. Now, how scientific is that that was actually boss was no others too. This is the head of Gawker Media, an empire of gossip, I'm Nick Denton, former journalist with the financial times and economists, and I call myself abolition here, yeah I've always avoided the ceo title because Y see those seen through she Gawker. Media is headquarters aloft, downtown minute and then showed me rather that's. All I want is not all that big, considering its reach. Roughly half a billion global Pedrosa month for its eight websites, Bachar dot com,
is one of the biggest, but there are other decibel. Is there in the Middle EAST motor over beyond it? That's been we have a couple of size island I in life I curvature mainly written out of the west, can it was the Gawker site dead, spin that broke the story about the football play, anti tail getting lured into a fake. My relationship with a woman that Post got four point: three million views all of the Dockers sites are gossiping. They cover sports, attacker, actual gossip, the tagline forgot come today's gossip is tomorrow's news. The two Gawker writers Katy am Katy Weaver and on the staff writer forgot come and Adrian, I'm Adrian and I am also software Adrian, and by the way has left blocker since we interviewed him, so you cover more. I do more celebrity gossipy day, and
you cover. I cover a lot of technical and privacy issues hackers kind of in a digital under Let me ask you: why do you call you do gossip then as well? Miss Katy was quite explicit, celebrity gossip and you think of Europe. In the same way on yeah. I think that a lot of what I am reporting on his gossip and I usually look at gossip. As you know what people are talking about. You know it it. It is just kind of the general, They gazed, and it's really easy with Twitter- What message boards and everything, which is where a lot of my subjects are on all the time to kind of sea, was going on and just pick out. You know what is the kind of key information and be bored argue there's something very you know valuable, giving someone gossip re like if you could walk entire ceo, something they didn't know it Agnes, who so what's it like to be
Purveyor and you know, receiver, my friends and family never give me, I mean my mom. The proprietors and Pennsylvania she's not really getting that many had tips but Also they treat me and serve and I don't mind the cell and encyclopedia, like they do say something beyond them you gonna go and I jump up I'll tell you so now it's kind of comforting, because aid our job is not real, is is a ludicrous profession. But it's nice the people can kind of religion for something in my something is giving you all to be unsafe gossip, if we just say a name, and we can press the gay button and Katy do we want a giant. Little ok, let me warn you katy- is about to get a little bit blue here. So if you are sensitive to discussions about the male anatomy, might wanna skip ahead of it. Ok,
back to John Hand, is a huge d. We read that thing about air, as used conversation about John Hems anatomy went on for wild got a big I gotTa Katy weavers post on this topic, which was headlined John Hymns Penis takes its owner output. Walk, got nearly a million page views and who
who is consuming all discuss. If you look at boxers numbers from Clot cast which measures digital audiences, the typical Bachar consumer is highly educated between twenty five and thirty four years old makes between fifty and a hundred fifty thousand dollars. Not quite so, poor is Thomas Coralie suspects and overwhelmingly is male. So the idea that gossip is the province of his Nick Denton calls them fish wives. Well, it doesn't seem to be remotely true and according to Denton, it misses the point you James Baker attorney, I think after he left office at another. He asked heads of seven hours a week there was allocated to private press briefings was with the rest of the New York Times. Was his favorite but yet others and here's
He had the very, very technical, and suppressing often you find is the people who are actually had the bravery pinnacle the gossips and not to levels down the gossips or at the very my top and the real power plants. They know how to use this wealth. This is power, but there is a correlation between wealth and power, but people pinnacle power in business and in politics gossips over represented among the local people talking to windward yeah, I'm always astonished by when I come across somebody who s you gotta Vizir as a tool in the corporate infighting. The railing against some boss and how will for their bosses Why didn't you if the matter is that, Surely it's bad enough to be manifested in some group email, the email to enough people that will be hard to take where it came from and you could kill them right that right
and your shot that people don't do that. I'm shot, I'm shocked when it under it seems a rational. You have a problem, you have a means for its solution. Use them well, of course, I would seem irrational to you doing. Gawker running got, right. You can imagine that someone has a totally different set of instincts right. Who doesn't have anything to get rid of an awful boss Abbas. It is making life miserable scaliger We recently did an episode on them game theory and how Jane Austen was the original game theorist, and the argument was that the people who most need to engage game theory be good at our people. Less power. If you have power leverage, you need two strategies and get your way But maybe the only way you got power leverage in the first place was by the endorse it was by using. If my That's, I guess that's a question. If, indeed, gossip is more prevalent among lower income, people who again lets it lets say it is for that for a moment for the sake of argument, one could be
as a currency is very valuable for climbing we're trying to climb in two could be something counter which is just pure schadenfreude. You and I think it is. I think what would it is? The people define Lord Le Figaro, more associated with gossiped, isn't really matter. Class prejudice is based is aimed at the things that they talk. The people are. They talk about an important rang. It doesn't meet the standard of news, so let's call it gossip passes. Fishwife sooner is fish. Why chattering about their husbands or some infidelity. There's no difference between, and power gossip with money gossip, except that the people who decide what is news and what is gossip privilege people who looked down on love us everybody conceives introduces got them. That's Jenny, coal, mining.
Because I'm a social psychology lecture at stuff achieve their city and my research interests are in Gaza on communication also or mine. Today, Nick Denton makes the point that the difference between gossip and news is really a semantic difference. We want to talk the Jinni coal, about the difference between good gossip and bad gossip and how each of them It makes us feel so coal, along with one of her students, Hannah Scrivener, did some experiments. They started by showing people a photo of one they didn't seven. First experiments people were presented with a photo, I'm just a Lee brief description of Hobbes and demographic information. We were asked to describe that person. So in essence, gossip is describing someone posted. LEO negatively, will not bear so we thought this is. This is all I see what gossip is about. Four boil cost it down to the essentials. The participants at she would quite willing to give descriptions of me
will they had no idea about. We thought they to complain about this and they seem to be quite happy to do it, and we found that when you gossip about Somalia, when you take ought in this type of task. Why you asked to describe someone in a positive way: there's not much effect on how we feel about ourselves when that bullet, whether with thanks thing. Positive about someone or not. Those doesn't make us feel better to praise someone in Amerika Nonetheless, I am, but it does make us feel much worse. If we criticise someone when they're, not that- and this is Can someone that we don't know just what we ve been presented within an experiment? Ok, just to recap saying Something nice does nothing for us saying something nasty makes us feel bad in the next experiment: coal ram. She added another task sire? I had another task in the second experiments, which was a bit closer to what you might think of his gossip soap.
But were asked to share with the experimenter him inform something positive or negative about someone, they knew so almost like to tell a little story. So in each case, a subject possessed for either a positive org it was at the way separate gaps. Sire summer participants were encouraged to tell us a little story about the thing that makes their acquaintance or friend that they're talking about goods and ha for us, too, a little story about something that made their friend your acquaintance? Look bats and disarm clear sorry, so the differences are a european directed to either go positive or negative. Yet and be your now describing someone real that you actually know instead of some fake person whose picture you ve seen. Again, you aren't yet what do you find now? Well, now you finds that, regardless of whether the description is positive or negative, everyone feels bad. Basically, everyone feels body. It took about someone behind that back regardless of what they're saying, ok, so
not, shall you find that if you ask a bunch of college students who come into a lab to describe someone they see for the first time in a picture summer, they don't know you find that same positive things about that person doesn't change their feelings about themselves, but it does make them feel worse if they say something negative. Yes, absolutely way. However, you asked these same people to say something either positive or negative about some of that they actually do no real person than they feel. Worse, whether they say something positive or negative. Yes, net. You mention in the first leg, in the first portion of your study, where people are shown a picture and gossip about someone that they feel worse about themselves when they say something negative. If that's the case, is it irrational, somehow You want to do that. Is it wrong? I get out not the word. I really want, but we'll stick with irrational. Is it irrational to do
something of your own volition. That makes you feel worse and and if not, why? I think, as part of the reason why gossip is they fastened because we do it all the time you estimates or vat about how much we do it, but it does seem so. To the rational, there's lots of studies that show that if he presents of one with a person who gossips and you ask that person how much they liked them, then people don't like gossips very much and also my research suggested that might be as a personal disadvantages. Wow cuz. We don't feel very good about yourself, so it seems if you don't look at it said that, like gossip, isn't impossible, p dot m in behavior
from what we have heard so far? There's not much good to say about CASA business people, don't like people who gossip when we do it. It makes us feel bad about ourselves. So it's tempting to just write off gossip as an inevitable rotten by product of the human condition, but coming up and economics radio. What? If we told you The gossip serves some really useful functions like this. Beyond the social lubrication. I think there's another piece, that's quite important, which gossip is a warning to us, and this is a great way for me to keep myself and check if you can, You know with the grain assault look at what people are saying:
maybe there's some value there. Economics, radio sponsored by wonder is business movers podcast when cocksucker Allah changed their recipe to what they called new Coke in nineteen. Five, the backlash was swift and severe, and yet the man who drove the change Chairman Robert Goya's wetter, pulled new coke from the shelves in a matter of months? Wonder? Is business movers explores boys what is controversial decision and the public response, but the real story of new Coke is far more human and complex list, to wonder: is business movers podcast on Apple Podcast, Amazon, music or free in the wandering happened
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She was like better, although we have a new another person driving writing from W and Y see. This is for economics, radio, here's your host even debonair, Steve live. It is my free climates friend and co authored. Ok! So let's talk about. Where do you work limit? Who work a dealer, research, which department of Economic when you are hanging out with your peers, are may be visiting scholars. What it gossip about. What kind of gossip do you get in come department, Universes Chicago. Let's say you know, we don't get very much of the good gossip, it's not a lot of lurid sexual stuff gone on among economies so more. I think we gossip bowed? Who will there won't get ten year about the bad behaviour of our colleague
assembly me there's a lot of bad behaviour among academic account details please, where we, we wrote about point of the examples of bad behaviour of economists, certain involved the commoner Harvard professor who is accused of of stealing a bunch of manure, one thousand something that's about as bad as it gets in economic. Ok, what let it is talking about is a Harvard economist who is accused of stealing a truckloads of manure for his garden, not really a scandal. By most measures I had called Levitt to ask him about the economics of God: But he told me is the economist: really know, much about gossip haven't even really come up with a good way to measure it. How about then colleges, Adam Grand Wharton, professor and organizational psychologist. I study how relationships influence, success and recent focuses on gossip hurry. Adam grant tell us this, for starters, just how common
How carbon is it estimates very good. I think it's an interesting comparison with lying research so that lead to follow. Colleagues have estimated that the average person might tell three lives every ten minutes and it would surprise me if gossip were equally common and what function does all that gossip serve grant says it's a social lubricant for one, but that it's more than that pro social gossip as academics called as a more important function beyond the social lubrication. I think there's another piece, that's quite important, which is ass. It is a warning device. It's a way that we can actually protect the people around us against star there. The folks at I've come to call the takers who are elfish out for themselves, so go back to Enron and Look at what happened when can lay decided to form and run
and had had a series of moments where he essentially stacked the Enron Board with a bunch of his cronies and should have buried a series of very selfish behaviors from his prior employer, and then a number of people and Enron start to realise that this guy's all about himself and they say nothing. Spread the word. They don't anybody else that this is somebody who doesn't have the company's best interests at heart. It's going to do- some kind of harm or violence to shareholders and stakeholders and, of course, The company managers to spend a lot of people out of their jobs and others out of their life savings I think in In that case, I look at that and say if somebody had been willing to step up earlier so blowing is an extreme form of press. I shall gossip and could have saved us from an hot and many other situations like it. I guess Captain me says: well: they're not willing to blow whistled because there
interests are tied with his at that point. If they know it's gonna go down the hall, then of course they'd be more likely to, but at that point there thinking were all on this profitable right. Anyone make any sense for me to put that. Fourth ya, think that's probably true, and you think. That's where you know that the lack of gossip is is basically at odds with, what's good for the grip and if you know we could call tomato a stronger level of concern for saying Let's try to make sure that everybody's best interests here or at heart. Then actually get somebody who is more likely to step up in and spread a little bit oppressor gossip. Both rumour and gossip. But this is a.
Was over linings of any of the negative side effects of Roma. Is this detecting of cheaters, detecting freeloaders, detecting of people who are harmful to the group in some way? That's Nicholas defined so he's a professor psychology at the Rochesters Institute of Technology. He studies rumour and yes, there is an academic distinction between rumour and gossip, although for the purposes of this conversation, that's a distinction without a difference, and so, if you have done some,
it's bad for your group and that sort of a good functions of Roma gossip is that your group will find out the funds. It says the paying attention to rumours and gossip is an excellent way to police the community by the intelligence agencies, classify one kind of intelligence as rumour, I believe the term is rumour, and so there very conscious of unverified information. That's in circulation throughout history, specially during wartime rumour in Gaza, had been used to gain an edge propaganda. Rumours rumours that are purposely started for a strategic goals. Military again were used throughout the world war. Two we have declassified documents. Manuals written in part by Robert Map was a professor at that. Time and advise
the allies about how to spread rumours that would demoralize the german troops or confuse the axis powers. Gossip and rumour are part of modern day warfare to during the Iraq war. Saddam Hussein regularly used rumours. In fact, the weapons of mass structural rumours that most people say got us into Iraq, probably were started by Saddam Hussein in order to make his enemies afraid and or by iraqi expatriates, who wanted to get back into and one of the? U S to become involved in Iraq. Since I was a very successful rumour campaign, Yes, there was that there was a rumour that we had a special re that made Saddam Hussein talk there. Lots of rumours about him, so there were some rumours that the he was work.
Negotiating especial deal with a. U ask that he has already in captivity, but we were we. Into announce it so that it would fit our political psycho? That's lieutenant Colonel Stephanie, de I am I active duty, airforce officer and obviously I anything I had to say. As my own opinion, I am not speaking on behalf of the air force, but I'm here Talk about thesis that I wrote and when I was a student at the neighbour postgraduate score, two thousand for the thesis was called rumours in Iraq, a guide to winning it's in mine, and so I was trying to compare these to counter insurgency tactics, and I realise that I had no way of assessing the perception of the iraqi people. Kelly came across a publication called the Baghdad mosquito. It was published by American intelligence officials, with the help of some Iraqis in arab american translators. These folks were
mine iraqi new sources for the latest gossip and publish a column in English. I think the column was entitled. What's the word on the street in Baghdad suffers pretty obvious. Kelly saw this as a great resource so but get these publications every day and the weekly back mosquitoes? I had the rumour section in there. I would pull those out and I would blog each rumour ensue in exile, spreadsheet and then After looking at all these rumours, I you know just search Categories became obvious and then I will just go through and I categorize all the rumours by the brain subject whether they were inciting hostility or fear, or if it was a pause, has been. I go wish, rumour or if it was just relaying some generic information and then basic May I just counted them. I category all the rooms. There is almost a thousand of them over a ten month period.
A really ran the gamma of a lot of different subjects. Some of the gossip was silly even absurd, but not so there was some rumours that talked about threats against people that call operated with a? U ass. There were rumours about some of the crime, that were being committee, like people were being kidnapped where's rumours are just about what was going on with the formation of the transitional government in, and there were some interesting kind of funny rumours things like The United States Army was going to turn a mosque into an amusement park, or that when Saddam Hussein was captured, they used a sleeping agent to knock him. Before they went in and ass. She heard her in nearby feels at his sheep fell asleep for a week and they didn't wake. And that's how they knew this rumour was true things like So there were some funny things.
There is also some rumours that were worrisome. So there were some. The soldiers were hanging out, candy two children that were poisoned or that they were purpose, go into Iraq and affecting the population with AIDS, so There is a lot of rumours inside of fear in the population and actually fermented the divide between the iraqi people and the? U S, forces so. What did Kelly conclude that gossip is a free and valuable resource that shouldn't be ignored, paying attention to what people are saying, even if a lot of it seems like petty gossip, a rumour could have changed the way that american troops were perceived in Iraq. Unfortunately, much of what was reported in the Baghdad mosquito was dismissed as idle chatter kind of the way that we dismiss alot of celebrity gossip in this country.
Changing entourage fan its official filming has finally started on the entourage movie with new photos servicing from the bed. Miami ingrained yea who plays the lead role. Events in case has also been posting his own behind the scenes photos, including this one where he looks to be, and possibly the best shape of his life we live in dichotomy right, so I dont think gossip is purely bad. Adrian grinned Yang is the movie star in tv star who played a movie star Vincent Chase in entourage. It's not all good, either indulged too much, but it does serve its use. It's a way for us to share ideas and through the these stories of other people through celebrity antics or missteps. We get to together
air. What we think is right or wrong, inform moral judgments, and I think that can be a good thing. What's it like to be The subject of gossip. I mean when you're in a show like entourage and you're, a big star like you, are I'm guessing you here and red things about you that He be wildly untrue and may be hurtful what's it like having a lot of Actors and performers forget their role. They forget that they are in fact in the public eye because they are farmers in their vehicles for ideas, and I embrace it personally. I I understand that that's what I chose to do is through acting in through the other things. I do I'm putting myself out there to create stories or tell stories that ultimately generate thought.
In put forth ideas and it's really a service, a public service and- and I really am a servant of the people. So people have the right to talk about me or talk whether things I've done, and I don't take it personally you now. To say I love that attitude and I find it refreshing and I find that something thought about a law which is that, yes, the minute you get involved in any business their career or even hobby that you're asking for a time. On one level you're going to get a tent on a number levels- and it's not up to you to decide who gets too, you know you, don't you don't get to quarantine all But even so I mean, are you really so you sound incredibly easy go about accepting the bad with the good. Is it hard to do that? Or do you really? Are you really cognizant out on into ceja people cons, what they say. Because I put myself in this arena,
I think that now is the right term, because it is, I think, a spiritual thing. Dna I'd consider myself a Buddhist above all spiritual practices, and in really you know, contentment or happiness is really in the mines. I don't really. I take everything outside in the outside world with green assault, including gossip and but at the same time you know it's a great way for me to keep myself in check. You know, if you can with a green assault, look at where people saying maybe there's some value there, maybe maybe I shouldn't said that or maybe I I can correct my behavior and even looking at other celebrities and what they do. They don't do, It helps me sort of guide my own behaviour, so there's some research that seems to indicate that people who gossip or when people gossip afterwards they feel worse, their self esteem falls it. It see. Like a thing of value to have, I have something that I'm going to tell other people and it will either.
Tidily them or shock them and make them laugh, and therefore I get something out of it, but it may be but emphasis on the May. It may be that that activity, while at sea like it's gonna, bring me a benefit, actually costs me. Does it Damn right to your no well what seems, to me is that maybe there's a momentary, endorphin rush than you Cashman that Endorphin Rush, Maybe- and you can sustain happiness on that, and I think you know ideas and creating value and, being you know, bean, frontier community and connected to your friends and really creating value for the world as I think where you derive happiness,
I guess they work in kind of a sewing circle ask place where we have lots of Gaza. I think gossiping is really satisfying. Gossiping could get into trouble. Generally is, if I hear Gaza because wanted are now the other I mean you aren't really interesting so much better out totally justice gas, for me as just sharing knowledge so to Adrian grandma. Gossip is a two way street during Chen from Gawker. Here's how he define gossip. I usually look at
as you know where people are talking about and here's Jenny Coal from Staffordshire University gossip is describing some one positively or negatively when they're not back and Adam Grant from Wharton beyond the social lubrication. I think there's another piece, that's quite important, which is gossip- is a warning device and, let's not forget, Stephanie Kelly talking about gossip for, if you insist rumour in Iraq, so there were some man. The soldiers were hanging out candidate, children that were poisoned or that they were purpose, go into Iraq and affecting the population with AIDS is not strange. This one thing gossip can have so many different definitions. Guess that's one reason why our understanding of it isn't very scientific yet, but there's probably another reason, which is that for all the functions, the gossip conserve good and bad, we seem to have a cultural aversion to acknowledge
acknowledging the legitimacy and the power of it. That's also why most of us, probably gossip, a lot more than we think a lot more than we did. Mitt member Adam Grant told us about the research on lying and got. Bela, to follow and her colleagues have estimated that the average person might tell three lies every ten minutes and wouldn't surprise me if gas it were equally common. So look at it this way. If you come right out and admit that you gossip though he sets one less lie, be telling people guesses nurse at next week's episode, good looking people earn more and bad looking. People become criminals. The next
it's because you can do better as an armed robber if you dont have to shoot people giving a scare him by being ugly as hell economics of ugly. That's next time on for economic, radio Freakin comics radio is produced by W and Y see and debonair productions. Our staff includes David Herman Gregg results, gay credit, cone, Bahrain, Am Susie Luxembourg and Chris Bannon, with engineering help from Jim brakes. If you on, Fr Economics, radio, you can subscribe to our podcast on Itunes or go to free economic stock com, we'll find lots of radio a blog, the books in more.
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-13.