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Gossiping is frowned upon in many societies and is often considered a vice. However, social scientists now believe that gossip is an essential treasure to the human evolutionary past.

Importance of gossip in history

Speaking to NBC News, Frank McAndrew, PhD., a professor at Knox College, said that gossiping had helped humans survive in the past. Understanding what was going on in those who were around was vital for survival, especially during tough times.

McAndrews explained that gossip helped people establish social status, and those who did not gossip were at a disadvantage. Those who were uninterested in what was going on in other people’s lives were isolated and less attractive.

A recent study by Dartmouth College neuroscientists displayed how talking about other people could strengthen the connections one had with those around. The researchers asked volunteers to play a series of online games and observe the role of gossip on each of the participants.

The researchers describe gossip as a misunderstood form of communication. In the online games, the researchers provided the subjects with money that they could invest or keep. If they chose to invest, it would be in a crowdfund that grows and would eventually be divided out among members.

They played ten rounds. Each group had six members who initially had $10 each. Researchers explained that the game was designed to distinguish between the selfish free-riders and cooperative members of each group.

In a different game, players could chat with team members and gossip about another player’s behavior on the game, especially if they were free-riding. The DailyMail reports that the researchers found that gossiping helped the subjects learn information on each other where direct observation was inapplicable.

Better connections

Furthermore, participants who held conversations with each other felt more connected when the game was over and held similar impressions of other players in the group. Researchers explain that through the exchange of information, gossiping had formed better connections between the players.