Gossip influences our opinion of people

Think gossiping is an innocent way to pass the time? Think again

GOSSIP–MONGERS HAVE got a lot to answer for – scientists claim today the old saying is true: mud sticks.

A report printed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that idle tittle-tattle can actually be reputation-ruining.

In a test of 126 students, who played a game in which they could either co-operate with each other or cheat on each other, researchers found that the gossip had a ‘strong influence’ on how the players reacted to each other.

Suggestion that someone was a cheater stuck, even if no one had seen that person misbehave.

‘Gossip has a strong manipulative potential,’ Ralf Sommerfeld, one of the researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany, and the University of Vienna, Austria, told the Telegraph.

The reason? We think we’ve missed something the busybodies haven’t.

‘We fear that we might have missed something so we would rather listen to other people – it is virtually impossible to watch everybody all the time,’ Dr Sommerfeld explained.

Nice rumours stimulated better co-operation between players, while nasty innuendo created disruption, supporting the view that ‘reputation is highly important in human societies’.

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