Class Year

2013

Access Type

Vassar Community Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

Independent Program

First Advisor

Thomas Porcello

Second Advisor

Abigail Baird

Abstract

After personally engaging in the communication networks present at Vassar College, I have chosen to research the function of gossip in small communities such as college campuses. After collecting data on the many facets of gossip and informal information sharing of college students, I argue that one of the primary purposes of gossip for college students is a type of observational learning that aids their transition into their community. By establishing social norms and building relationships through the transfer of knowledge, gossip can ultimately be beneficial for the formation and maintenance of a culture. I designed an anonymous survey to gather qualitative data that would create a clearer picture of how and why Vassar students gossip, and analyzed the results in comparison with previous research on gossip. This type of research adds to the already established literature in that it can help us understand why a behavior riddled with negative social stigma continues in our society, especially so among young adults. The survey accumulated results that could have implications for further study of communication patterns of college students, such as the tendency to build social networks among members of the same class year, the growing trend of anonymous social media platforms, and the need for gossip to help develop a culture.

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