Gossip Lures Humans Together, It A Biochemical Feeling Of Closeness

AKAMANU JENNIFER

No one likes being talked about when they are not there and in a bad way.

But researchers are assuring that despite the negative feelings that people have towards gossips and those who indulge in it, there might be health benefits to the social malady at the end of the day.

Evolutionary psychologist, Dr. Robin Dunbar, notes that social topics which usually include personal relationships, likes and dislikes, anecdotes about social activities, etc., almost always make up about two-thirds of all conversations.

He adds that the remaining one-third of people’s time that is not spent talking about other people is devoted to discussing everything else, such as sports, music, politics, etc.

Researchers say rather than just a means to humiliate people and make them cry, gossip is actually increases the levels of the hormone oxytocin in the brain, which makes you feel closer to others.

Study lead author, Dr. Natascia Brondino, says, “I work as a psychiatrist and I noticed that every time my colleagues and I gossiped, we felt closer together. I started to wonder whether there was a biochemical cause for this feeling of closeness.”
Oxytocin, also called the ‘love hormone’ or ‘cuddle chemical,’ is released during sex and also produced by women during labour to help them bond with their newborns.

Other instances that can also trigger release of oxytocin include hugging or patting.

Oxytocin has also been known to provoke feelings of trust and generosity, while a higher concentration of it has been cited in women who engage in gossip.

Researchers from the University of Pavia in Italy tested the effects of gossip on 22 local women who were university students by randomly assigning them to two groups — one that would gossip and one that wouldn’t.

The first group gossiped about an unplanned pregnancy on campus, and the second non-gossip group chatted about how a person’s injury prevented them from playing sports in the future.

Both conversations were prompted and led by actresses, and each group completed questionnaires listing their reasons for being participants in the study.

Using a swab, the subjects’ saliva was tested for their individual oxytocin and cortisol levels. Cortisol contributes to stress in the body.

While the cortisol levels decreased equally among the gossip and non-gossip groups, the oxytocin levels were adequately higher in the gossip group.

Specifically, it was the gossip talk that triggered the release of more oxytocin in the women’s brains than ordinary or mundane conversations.

These findings suggest that gossip, as detrimental as it can be to some relationships, could actually serve a vital importance in human social interaction.

“It serves a useful social function,” says Brondino. “It brings people closer together than they would be if they were talking about some impersonal topic. And it can help us figure out who to trust, because we can hear information about people we don’t know from trusted sources.”

In this study, researchers used only female participants with no combined male test subjects because oxytocin can also be released during sexual arousal.

They didn’t want the participants to be attracted to one another, which could cause the release of the hormone and influence the specific gossip/oxytocin findings.

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