There are many stereotypes that have become intrinsically linked with women, haven’t they? Everywhere you see — in movies or television — these stereotypes are used as running gags. Hell, even women have bought into these stereotypes. Which stereotypes, you wonder?
Well, the ones which claim that women can’t drive, or that they take hours to get ready (blame societal expectations and conditioning, not us) or that they absolutely love to gossip.
Today, we have a surprise announcement for you. You see, dear readers, the time has come for you to retire from at least one of these stereotypes — women are not the only chatty Kathys! Yes, that’s right. Our so-called no-nonsense, not-engaging-in-anything-frivolous men do it too!
More often than not, when we see two women bursting into peals of laughter, we assume that it had to be over an exchange of salacious gossip. It’s a different matter altogether that they might have been sharing an innocent joke. However, when it comes to men, that’s not our line of reasoning. In our brains (and in the collective psyche of the society) men and gossip don’t go together. But science has proved this thinking wrong. How’s that? Read on to find out more.
The Science Behind Gossip
The general idea is that gossip is nothing but a malicious way of rumor mongering. But have you ever wondered just how much time we humans devote to this apparently redundant activity? Though it might’ve not occurred to you, it certainly did to the researchers at the University of Riverside, in California. These researchers conducted 5 observational studies to see the nature of gossip. They wanted to know who indulges in it and how.
They fitted people under their observation with recorders and heard them talk and converse with their friends and family for a period of 2-5 days (1). What they found at the end of this observation period was quite surprising. Some of their most shocking findings were (2):
- People (both men and women) in general, spent about 52 minutes gabbing about other people’s business. Yes, that’s a lot!
- Unlike the popular belief, people who have less education and are in the lower-income earning group don’t gossip more than their wealthier, well-educated counterparts.
- Younger people were more likely to indulge in negative gossip than older ones. Ah, truly, the youth is wasted on the young.
- Women indulged more in neutral or positive gossip — that is, their gossip often revolved around a casual exchange of information or admiring someone or something. So much for the belief that women are catty.
- Men spend as much time as indulging in idle chit-chat as women. Though women exceeded them in positive and neutral gossip (not surprising at all).
- And most surprising of all, much of the gossip that takes place is neutral. Just a harmless exchange of banal information that gives people a way to connect with each other.
Threw you off, didn’t it? We certainly were when we first came across these findings. But, these findings also highlighted the fact that gossip is not the negative social tool we thought it to be. So, what exactly is the function of this infamous social activity?
Gossip As A Bonding Tool
In his research, Frank McAndrew, a professor of applied social psychology at Knox College, suggested that gossip was a remnant of our evolution. According to his theory, natural selection forced human beings to know as much as they could about their surroundings and people in their social circle so that they could form meaningful connections. It also helped them bypass certain alliances which could prove to be risky. And in the process, they also formed meaningful bonds with those who trusted them enough to share information with them (3).
Now, in the modern age, we still carry this instinct within ourselves, only now our social circle also includes celebrities. For why else would the whole world be torn about when Jennifer Aniston would find true love? But this instinct is not entirely vestigial in nature. It forms the crux of our social interactions. We all want something to talk about, and gossip provides us with enough steam to keep that conversation engine going.
Well, as deep as this is, it’s not as exciting as the plot of Gossip Girl, right? But it does prove that there’s more to our human interactions than what appears on the surface. And something as insignificant as gossip can be of much import to it.
But for now, we leave you with this. The next time you see a man telling you that women are the source of all gossip, you just pull this article and stand your ground girl!
What did you think of this research? Do you agree with its findings? Share your views with us in the comments section.