London (PTI): Gossip mongers, beware! A regular dose of chinwag may be good for your mental health but it also influences your opinion.

Yes, according to a study carried out by researchers in Europe, gossip creates a strong influence on opinions of people who indulge in tittle-tattle, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported here on Tuesday.

"Gossip has a strong manipulative potential," lead researcher Ralf Sommerfeld of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Pln, Germany, was quoted by the daily as saying.

In fact, the researchers came to the conclusion after testing 126 students who played a game in which they could either co-operate with each other or cheat on each other.

According to the rules of the game, they could spread rumours about the behaviour of rivals between each round.

The researchers found that the gossip had a "strong influence" on how the players reacted to each other -- rumours that a player was helpful stimulated people to co-operate better together while nasty innuendo from a scandalmonger had the opposite effect.

"We fear that we might have missed something so we would rather listen to other people -- it is virtually impossible to watch everybody all the time. However, the study supports the view that reputation is highly important in human societies," Sommerfeld said.

The findings have been reported in the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' journal, and the work was part of research to show why humans cooperate with each other.