"Gossiping is usually seen as a bad thing," acknowledges British researcher Dr. Jennifer Cole. But she and Hannah Scrivener, her fellow researcher, say it may have some positive side effects—for those who do it, that is. Their study, presented Tuesday and reported at AlphaGalileo, found that those who gossip feel more socially supported. And gossipers who praise the people they are talking about--i.e. engage in "positive" gossip--may get a brief self-esteem boost from the activity.

Granted, finding that gossiping "could be linked with some desirable outcomes for the gossiper" does little to change its image as a petty or underhanded practice. But it might explain why so many engage in it.

[Hat tip: Heather Wax]