Scientists reveal why we love to gossip – and why that’s okay

Three woman gossiping. (Photo: Getty/Gallo Images)
Three woman gossiping. (Photo: Getty/Gallo Images)

Everyone gets a little giddy when gossiping and that’s why in the 1960s, the National Enquirer swapped out gruesome headlines for celeb gossip and scandals.

But it’s not just tabloid readers who love to spill the tea, it’s human nature.

Social scientists have found that it’s innate within everyone to gossip, whether it’s paying attention to it or participating, CNN reports.

“We're the descendants of people who were good at this,” said Frank McAndrew, a professor in psychology at Knox College in the US.

“In prehistoric times, people who were fascinated by the lives of other people were more successful.”

McAndrew is an expert in human social behaviour and gossip.

He explains that gossip allowed humans to thrive, especially in the time of the cavemen when it was vital to know what was happening with those around us.

“Who’s sleeping with whom? Who has power? Who has access to resources? And if you weren't good at that, you weren't very successful,” he said.

Spilling the tea, may have a negative connotation in this day and age when one considers hurtful comments and rumours, or a person’s right to privacy. But researchers say that in everyday life it’s usually relatively banal and neutral, serving its own unique purpose.

According to a recent study published in Sage Journals by researchers at the University of California, the average person spends approximately 52 minutes everyday gossiping.

Most of this gossip is harmless, while about 15% of it involves negative judgments.

The average person, however, is just documenting facts, such as, “She’s stuck late at work,” or “He had to go to the hospital.”

The study suggests neutral chitchat is integral in building relationships or learning information vital for maintaining a social life.

So get your gossip on, build those connections.

Source: CNN, Sage Journals

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24