Research Shows: Our Brains Are Designed for Gossip
Although gossip often gets a bad rap, new research suggests that the brain is actually built for this kind of controversial chitchat. In the results of a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers identified an area of the brain called the anterior temporal lobe (or ATL), which acts like a hub for social knowledge and personal identities. When somebody asks you a question about another person, this is the part of your brain that whirs into action.
The ATL resides in the front of the temporal lobe, and plays a role in semantic memory, which is our knowledge of objects, people, words, and facts—basically the things you don’t even know you know. The ATL serves as a command center that gathers information from the different parts of the brain that store person-based knowledge (like names, faces, traits, etc.) and funnels them into one place for quick and easy recall. So when somebody mentions the scandalous story about the high school gym teacher from 5 years ago, you’re ready to jump right in–in no time. The longer you go without recalling a person’s information, however, the longer it takes to retrieve it. Not surprisingly, people with larger social networks are much better at processing social information.
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In a nutshell, gossip is a part of who we are as a species. It’s a by-product of a mechanism that allows us to connect, form bonds, and collaborate with those around us. We are social by nature, and although this trait can manifest itself in undesirable ways, in the end we’re only human.