Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Frederick Binding

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The purpose of this study was to investigate social psychological factors in the process of gossip. A second purpose was to determine whether gossip is a process distinct from rumor. An American community was the location of the study. The situations observed were behavioural settings which either the E or her assistant were permitted to attend without arousing suspicion. The 79 Ss studied were male and female adults and children who happened to be present in these behavioural settings. Conversations of all Ss were tape recorded as well as the gossip portions of conversations in other settings. The content of the gossip was then analyzed according to motivational categories of gossip, themes of gossip and recurring gossip colloquialisms. At the conclusion of thestudy the Sixteen Personality Factors Questionnaire was administered to 27 Ss and primary and secondary personality factors were scored. The Ss were divided into two groups: “hi” gossipers who engaged in gossip, and “lo” gossipers who did not. Gossipers were also identified according to their roles as contributor, receiver or impeder. Age, sex, level of education, status in the community, occupation, number of friendships and relations by birth and marriage were recorded for each S. The relationships between each of these factors, and both gossip and roles were analyzed.

Sixteen PF sten scores revealed that there was a significant difference between the “hi” and the “lo” gossip groups for factor F, happy-go-lucky. An analysis of the 16 PF showed “hi” gossipers to be happy-go-lucky and talkative and “lo” gossipers to be sober and serious. A significant relationship between gossip behaviour and both age and occupation of the Ss was found. Specifically, gossip varies with age, and the results showed that with an increase in age there is an increase in amount of gossip. Housewives and farmers engaged in more gossip than do those persons engaged in occupations requiring them to work away from their place of residence. A significant relationship was found between the gossiper’s role of contributor, receiver or impeder and the gossiper’s status in the community as leader, participant, or isolate. Persons who are in positions of leadership in the community are less actively engaged in gossip as contributors, impeders and receivers.

A significant relationship between age and role was found. The 31- to 40-year-old group had the greatest proportion of contributors, receivers and impeders of gossip. The 11 to 20 and the 51- to 60-year-old groups did not impede gossip. Content analysis revealed five motivational categories of gossip: recreational “chit-chat”, cathartic, wish fulfillment, wish to identify with the group, and source of information with view to help.

Six themes of gossip conversation were identified: observable behaviour, achievement or failure, disposition, morality, financial, and physical appearance of individual. Relationships by blood and marriage did not always impede gossip. Occasionally Ss gossiped about their close friends and relatives, contrary to popular expectation. It was suggested that future studied in gossip should involve a greater sampling of the population in more types of behavioural settings. This would allow greater confidence in drawing conclusions concerning the nature of the gossip phenomenon in such a variegated community.

Convocation Year