Gossip needn’t prompt guilt: It’s an evolved self-protection technique, scientists say. Researchers showed subjects images of people and provided a little information about them, some of it banal, some of it positive or negative gossip, the Daily Mail reports. An image of a person was then placed in front of one of the subject’s eyes, while a picture of a house was set in front of the other. Scientists measured the amount of time the subject spent processing the images.
Subjects dwelled longer on images of people who’d been involved in scandal. “This preferential selection for perceiving bad people might protect us from liars and cheaters by allowing us to view them for longer and explicitly gather more information about their behavior,” the scientists say. “Gossip is a vital thread in human social interaction,” letting us “learn socially relevant information about other people’s character or personality without having to directly experience their triumphs or misadventures.” That helps us live in large groups, they note. (Read more gossip stories.)