Gossip not only captivates our attention, but it is also good for our brain and health. And that’s not all.
One thing is certain: most people love to gossip. Gossiping about others, that is, passing on unconfirmed rumors, whether positive or negative or learning about them, is actually considered to be quite crude. After all, the person in question is not present and cannot add anything to the gossip to clarify. But as long as gossip doesn’t degenerate into bad slander, it definitely has its good sides – namely for our brain, our social interaction, and, to a certain extent, even for our health well-being, various studies have come to this conclusion.
Gossip and gossip get stuck
Our brains love to gossip. This has been confirmed by a study by the Scottish University of St. Andrews since 2006 at the latest. The researchers demonstrated this using a “silent mail” game. The subjects had to read four short texts and then write down what they remembered. These texts were passed on to other volunteers who repeated the process. After four of these rounds, the results were compared with the original texts. The texts that contained fictional gossip, for example about lies or infidelities by invented people, were reproduced surprisingly precisely and consistently. Most of the texts that simply contained dry facts were almost nothing identical to the original version.
Gossip strengthens social bonds
The brain responds to gossip because it is stimulated by stories. The regions that are responsible for memory and emotions are stimulated, links are created with existing stories and experiences, they literally get stuck. Dry facts, on the other hand, are saved for a short time but are quickly deleted if there are no further link options. This is why some successful memory methods also work by linking new learning material with fictional stories: This way you memorize things much better and also train your brain – that also seems to work with gossip, at least to a certain extent.
Gossip also has another function which, according to Scottish researchers, is primarily evolutionary. One of the secrets of the success of the human species is its distinctive social nature. Communication within the social group promotes cohesion and thus also the security and thus the satisfaction of the individual. At the same time, gossip can also offer a kind of information advantage, for example, which other group or which individual is currently allied or hostile with whom. This in turn can be helpful in maintaining or improving one’s own social position. The scientists are convinced that prehistoric humans gossiped and that this impression has been preserved to this day.
Gossip relaxes and makes you happy
Gossip also has a very specific psychological effect that could play a decisive role in the social component already described. A 2017 study by the Italian University of Pavia examined brain metabolism while we communicate. It turned out that the oxytocin level increases with gossip topics. Oxytocin is considered a “happiness” and “cuddle” hormone; it is also released during sex or during childbirth, for example. Oxytocin strengthens emotional bonds, if we gossip with a friend, for example, then we feel more connected and closer to her – this strengthens social cohesion. It also triggers feelings of happiness and relieves stress. So gossip makes you happy and relaxed – and that can, as everyone knows.
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