Does Gossip Have An Evolutionary Purpose?
Gossiping is a good way of identifying friends and foes. We are either judge, jury or executioner when we gossip — and we use the information we cull to keep immoral influences at arm's length.
Research indicates that people who witnessed immoral behavior feel better after gossiping about it to people who might have been affected. They are helping to spread the news, and therefore raise the possibility that the person in question is punished.
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It is talking about a person who isn’t present. It's not necessarily about spreading malicious rumors or embarrassing stories, just sharing information.
Research indicates that the typical person spends about 52 minutes per day gossiping. But most of it is just sharing information about the people in their lives with those around them.
Gossiping is a fundamental human instinct because our lives are deeply rooted in groups and we depend on the people in our groups to survive.
We need to have as much information as possible about the people around us in order to accurately determine expectations, trustworthiness, viewpoints, and so on.
Gossip doesn’t only teach us about the person who’s the subject of the conversation, but also about the gossiper. When you gossip you tell others things about your attitudes, beliefs, and ways of dealing with people by seeing who and what you gossip about.
When you do join in, gossip can also strengthen your social bonds. It improves a group's cooperation and makes members less selfish, as well as a way of identifying and ostracizing untrustworthy individuals until they learn the lesson.
If you gossip negative things, like insulting someone or talking down their achievements, it may put both you and the person you are talking to at risk of losing the group’s trust and each other’s strength.
Speaking your mind about someone can also result in "spontaneous trait transference. " According to psychologists, this is when people are perceived as possessing the traits they are describing in others.
Spontaneous trait transference works with positive talk. If you're discussing someone and you describe them as kind and generous, people are more likely to see you that way too.
Small talk and gossip help us build and analyze the relationships we have with other people, as well as work out each other's social standings and traits.
People's names trigger the brain in a unique way so you can recall information about them. Gossip works as training for the information gathering capacities of the brain.
Research also found that people were much better at processing information about people they had just met if they had large social groups. By talking with and about people more often, they were using those parts of their brains regularly.
Our prehistoric ancestors lived in small intimate groups. To survive they needed to cooperate with in-group members while also competing for mates and limited resources.
It was fundamental to know who was reliable, trustworthy, a cheater, a good mate and so on. To that end, an intense interest in the private dealings of others was beneficial and favored by natural selection.
Sharing secrets is one way people bond, so avoiding gossip may lead to social isolation. Someone skillful at gossip can be socially informed and have a good rapport with others. On the other hand, someone who doesn’t gossip may become an outsider, neither trusted nor accepted by the group.
Gossip also helps to integrate newcomers into groups by exposing group norms and values.
The awareness that others are likely talking about us can keep us in line. Among a group of friends or coworkers, the threat of becoming the target of gossip can deter “free-riders” and cheaters.