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Social Hierarchies

Social Hierarchies

Spreading rumors about a close friend doesn’t bring you closer but it leads you up the social ladder by taking somebody else down. Gossip can be greatly detrimental, but it also allows nonphysical competition and displays of power.

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Policing Behavior

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.

Keeping Us Safe

We ensure our well-being by exchanging information about the world around us (and the potential dangers it contains) with as many people as possible.

Building Social Bonds

Gossip is a key social skill that helps ensure our healthy integration into human society. 

Gossiping with somebody is a way of bringing people closer within your social group, checking that they share your views, and bonding over shared positions and judgements. The people you gossip most with, therefore, are the ones with whom you're the closest.

Our Urge To Tell Stories

Gossip on celebrities is largely constructed of narratives, with arcs and patterns — the swift rise, the first fall, the redemption. According to this theory, we love gossip because it ties into our human innate fascination with storytelling.

Stories often have a moral component that provides us with patterns of behavior, develop and expand our attention, bond an audience, and let us play. Storytelling is also a good way to attract mates.

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RELATED IDEAS

Gossiping

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.

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IDEAS

We’re Wired To Gossip

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.

The focus on irrationality is missing the point. To label delusions as irrational means that all 'normal' cognition is rational, which is not true as our beliefs are disproportionately influenced by multiple factors.

A new theory suggests that we form delusions to help us understand and survive in our social environment. These processes allow us to live and cooperate with people by understanding their intentions.