The results showed that the volunteers registered the faces associated with negative gossip for the longest period of time, compared to images that were either neutral or positive.
The authors note that the faces themselves were all quite similar, so as to avoid the possibility that the volunteers would be responding to different features in the pictures themselves.
Scientists have speculated that humans evolved to be insatiable gossips because our rumour-obsessed ancestors were more likely to survive to have children.
Gossip may have helped humans living in large groups to learn indirectly about each others' characters. The theory is that keen gossips were better at attracting and keeping lovers, and deciding who was a threat to their survival.
"Gossip helps us predict who is friend and foe without first-hand experience of that person, and probably evolved to protect us from liars and cheaters," said Feldman Barrett.
Paywalled now? Does NYT want a cut? (or is that just due to multiple clicks on my part?)
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