Next time I gossip, I’ll just blame it on evolution.
A scientific review of almost 100 evolutionary psychology papers has left researchers with the … shall we say dubious conclusion … that women are wired to be catty to each other. Seriously. Tracy Vaillancourt, a psychology professor at the University of Ottawa, led the study and wrote that women have evolved to use gossip and backstabbing to effectively maximize the potential harm on their targets and prevent significant damage to themselves.
In a journal called Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Vaillancourt insists that women are biologically programmed to see younger or more attractive women as threats, because they could be more desired by potential mates. They then turn to passive-aggressive tactics to challenge that woman and diminish her social power, rather than become directly, physically aggressive (like men are more likely to do). Both men and women gossip, of course. But women, she says, are more attuned to the nuances of gossip and react much more strongly to negative gossip than men do. Female gossip targets experience increased heart rates and anxious feelings, whereas men do not.
Not everybody is convinced that this “conclusion” aren’t just stereotypes run amok. Kim Wallen, an Emory University psychologist, asserts that the research is questionable because of the lack of empirical data presented. He claims that the findings are more rooted in generalizations and opinion. We’re inclined to agree.
[Image of gossiping women via Shutterstock]