While it’s wrong to talk about other people’s lives behind their backs, there is something about gossip (or tsismis) that is just so enticing. According to evolutionary psychologists, humans are so preoccupied with other people’s lives because of how our brains were wired–and that gossip is believed to be a “highly evolved social skill.”
British psychologist Robin Dunbar of the University of Liverpool in England explains in his book, Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, that gossip is used as a way to connect with others as long as it’s done properly. “Gossip is a mechanism for bonding social groups together, analogous to the grooming that is found in primate groups,” he says. So in what ways can gossip be good? Here are three things:
1. It encourages cooperation.
Matthew Feinberg, a Stanford University postdoctoral researcher, said in his study that gossiping about members you can’t trust makes the rest of the group work well. “Groups that allow their members to gossip sustain cooperation and deter selfishness better than those that don't,” he points out. He also added that while both of these behaviors can be misused, their findings suggest that gossipping also serves very important functions for groups and society.
2. Avoiding being the topic of gossip keeps you in check.
When you have lots of nosy neighbors or co-workers around, you’ll most likely behave in a proper manner to avoid being everyone’s favorite topic. The fear of being the center of attention when it comes to gossip pressures an individual to be a better person.
3. Gossip can lower your stress levels.
Another study from the University of California, Berkeley found that gossiping can actually lower stress you’re feeling. “Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip,” says social psychologist and study researcher Robb Willer.
This article originally appeared on FemaleNetwork.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.