The Boomerang Effect of Gossip
is Discovered

Mom was right:
If you can't say anything nice about someone,
don't say anything at all.

It appears to go against common sense - not to mention classic psychological theory - but researchers writing in the April edition of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology say they have identified a common, but apparently mindless, psychological phenomenon that plays a previously unrecognized role in the way people form impressions of other people.

Specifically, they've found that when someone attributes positive or negative traits to someone else, the listener will often attribute those same traits to the speaker.

"In other words," the authors write, "politicians who allege corruption by their opponents may themselves be perceived as dishonest, critics who praise artists may themselves be perceived as talented, and gossips who describe others' infidelities may themselves be viewed as immoral."

The gist of the research is that when you gossip, you become associated with the characteristics you describe, ultimately leading those characteristics to be "transferred" to you.

The research suggests that this phenomenon is irrational and largely outside of conscious awareness.

from the article:
"Spontaneous Trait Transference:
Communicators Take on the Qualities
They Describe in Others"
by John J. Skowronski, Ph.D.,
Ohio State University;
Donal E. Carlston, Ph.D., and Lynda Mae, M.A.,
Purdue University
and Matthew T. Crawford,
Indiana University Bloomington
in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
Vol. 74, No. 4.
and adapted from materials provided by the
American Psychological Association

(edited by David Van Alstyne)

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