Brainblogger says yes:
According to their paper published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin earlier this year, two people with a similar negative attitude towards a third party are likely to experience greater feelings of familiarity than people whose attitude towards a third party is positive.
More precisely, milder negative affect towards someone else, when shared, are likely to be more effective at promoting feelings of familiarity than a mild positive affect. The researchers cite Dunbar as having already demonstrated how gossip is an effective mechanism when it comes to cementing interpersonal relationships, and their in-depth research on both direction and magnitude of affect only validates this viewpoint. In the early stages of interaction and relationship-building, revealing one’s negative opinion of another person establishes the listener as a valued and trusted companion in the eyes of the speaker. This itself is because social norms dictate that an individual reveal only the most desirable qualities about him or herself when first meeting a new person. Thus when the listener hears the speaker refer negatively to a third party, their levels of “subjective familiarity” towards the speaker are enhanced, as such revelations are the sort to be made when an interpersonal relationship is more established and secure.
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