Canada, October 6, 2017: “He got a pay rise? Ah, he’s a smooth talker, after all!” Hushed conversations in the corridors often begin like that, don’t they?
To some people, gossip is therapeutic. The comfort of sharing a few resentful words in confidence gives people an uncanny lift. But why do we gossip? And more importantly, why do we love to gossip?
We are all aware that we shouldn’t talk about people behind their backs. However, despite condemning the practice, in theory, we are all guilty of indulging in gossips every now and then. But why do we gossip, after all?
A new Canadian research answers the question and suggests that the practice is actually good for us!
As part of the research, 290 heterosexual Canadian students aged 17-30 were required to full three questionnaires as honestly as possible.
One set of questions aimed to measure their competitiveness against fellow members who associated with the same gender. This competition further strengthened if the participants saw fellow members as a potential competitor for a partner.
The other two questionnaires were focused to gauge the probability of the participants to indulge in gossip and positioned instances if and when they think gossiping are acceptable.
Psychology Behind Gossip
The results revealed that people competitive towards fellow members of the same sex indulged in increased levels of gossip. Further, these members were more likely to hold the viewpoint that gossiping about people behind their backs is okay.
The study also established that women demonstrated higher chances of indulging in gossip than men. It further suggested that gossiping allows women to gather more information about potential competitors while on the lookout for partners. Hence, females placed increasing social value in participating in gossip.
It was further revealed that women gossiped more about physical appearances and discussed other social information. On the other hand, men talked about the achievements of others behind their backs.
Researchers Reveal Why Do We Gossip
According to Adam Davis, the lead researcher of the study from the University of Ottawa, Canada, “The findings demonstrate that gossip is intimately linked to mate competition and not solely the product of a female gender stereotype that may be viewed as pejorative.”
The study successfully answers the question: ‘Why do we gossip?” and suggests that gossiping should not be perceived as a flaw of one’s character.
Davis believes gossiping is a highly evolved social trait and mandates its importance for healthy interpersonal relationships.
By indulging in gossip, members of the community attempt to show off enviable characteristics- Adam Davis terms this as ‘intrasexual competition’.
The research concluded that there exists a positive link between perception towards gossiping, the amount of gossiping that individuals indulge in and the level of intrasexual competitiveness.
Gossip And Its Effects
Like there are two sides to a coin, the practice of gossiping can be both, good and bad.
We often indulge in gossip to share our worries and seek reassurance and support. Alternatively, by talking about others, we often attempt to speak well about ourselves and our addressee, however indirectly.
However, gossip can take a demeaning route if it is motivated by an underlying nastiness. It can very easily escalate to distrust and awkwardness.
Going by this new research that traces the legitimacy of indulging in gossip, there exists a need to refine our stance about gossip.
(The research can be accessed online in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.)