Oct 16, 2007

What's the gossip all about?

A new study on the role of gossip was just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A reader friendly description of the study was also published at LiveScience.

The key finding: gossip has a powerful impact on our perception... we tend to believe what we hear about others.

While people downplay the role of gossip ("I hate gossip"), it actually serves a very important function. Without gossip, which everyone does from time to time, cooperation and group living would be impossible.

When animals live in groups, some system for maintaining a hierarchy and social accountability is required. In humans, gossiping allows us to maintain and establish "reputation effects" - making social life possible.

As everyone knows, gossiping isn't always accurate, but without a system for identifying loafers and cheaters - trust could easily be exploited making cooperation impossible to achieve.

What are the topics we are most likely to gossip about? Taking advantage of others, cheating, not playing by the rules, and sexual behavior. Just the really important things in life.

And if your interested in reading more about gossip, the New York Times has a great article on the topic.


TK Kerouac said...

Regarding Gossip...
I always felt that whoever had the best gossip, held the most power
But there are times when after gossiping,
I feel bad about it
and when i hear others gossiping
I wonder
"well if they would talk that way about this person, then what will they say about me"
Because often times, you get the gossip, along with a personal opinion or attack
At the end of the day, when you ask yourself, "who did I hurt today, and how did it make me feel"?
This is the other side of gossiping, the not so great side
And in regards to intelligence,
its so easy to gossip instead of thinking of something more interesting to talk about, less harmful

I'm sending you a personal invite to my blog
very interested in what you write about,
I'm private for now but intend on going public soon
my email address is tkkerouac@gmail.com

akakarma said...

I think it's hard to separate gossip from just alking about others. I love to talk about others and I guess that's why I'm in Human Services. But, sometimes it feels like gossip. One rule that I use that helps me is if I'm comfortable saying to someone's face it's ok.?