Do you feel guilty after gossiping about a friend or colleague?? Don’t anymore because scientists have found that crafty chats – dubbed ‘gossip theory’ – are what makes us human, and may even help us live longer.
Gossip is what sets our species apart, as it helps us bonds with friends and learn important information about who to trust and it’s this vital communication that could prevent us from dying says Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, who believes is the ‘most important thing’ to keep us alive.
‘Your social network has a huge effect on happiness and well-being.
‘The problem we have is how to maintain our social networks. Language evolved to allow us to keep the oil of the social network flowing, keep us up to date, and tell stories, which is really important for community cohesion.
‘Gossiping is just chatting with people and keeping up to date with the social world in which you live. So gossip is what makes us human.
The idea is that as language developed it let humans communicate better and made them more likely to pass on useful information, allowing them to live in larger groups.
Yuval Noah Harari, a history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told the newspaper: ‘The new linguistic skills that modern humans acquired about 70 millennia ago enabled them to gossip for hours on end.
‘Reliable information about who could be trusted meant that small bands could expand into larger bands.
‘Even today the vast majority of human communication, whether in the form of emails, phone calls or newspaper columns is gossip.
‘It comes so naturally, that it seems as if our language evolved for this very purpose.’
He added that ‘rumor-mongers’ were in fact the first journalists, helping inform others about who to avoid and who to trust.