Gossip and language

According to recent research, gossip makes up about 80% of human language interactions, and it is possibly one of the things that separates humans from other animals.

Researchers suggest that language developed mainly to share social information, i.e. gossip, and has enabled humans to build larger and more complex societies than other creatures. Animals such as apes spending a lot of time grooming each other and this limits the number of individuals they can interact with, while humans use language as a form of “vocal grooming” and are able to keep up with far more individuals.

In Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language Robin Dunbar makes a similar case, and estimates that the optimal group size for humans in about 150.

How much time do you spend gossiping?

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This entry was posted in Language.

7 Responses to Gossip and language

  1. Michael says:

    too much!!!
    i would agree with the 80% statement, actually.

  2. Gwrhyr says:

    I must admit that gossiping is really fun, but some of my friends really frown on it. I would say, when talking with friends, the subject matter is probably around 25% gossip, 25% current events, 25% ‘deep life philosophy’, and 25% jokes/goofing around. A pretty even mix, because even though I find gossiping fun, it’s just not very socially approved of, so I don’t get the chance very often. Plus it always takes a bit of time for new developments to come about to make for interesting gossip.

  3. TJ says:

    I thought myself being a gossiper til I met my colleague. Yet, some people say I complain so much (if complaining is a form of gossiping). Here I’m talking about online chat and real-life gossip. In real life, I don’t have much people to interact with actually… and things are going online somehow on same way.

    If I should classify my gossiping, that would be 95% whining, and the rest is a form of technical talk!

  4. Michael says:

    I would guess certain social circles are more into gossip than others.
    Might certain cultures be more into it, or more accepting of it?

  5. Peter J. Franke says:

    I try to avoid gossiping because I feel it as a dishonest action, negative. But I must admit it also happens that I comment (at a whispering tone with a little sarcasme behind it) about all kind of affairs I heard about. In my case it is around 20-25 %… May be more, a lot more. No, not that much, or may be more than I like to admit…..

  6. Dennis King says:

    It’s called social networking now, isn’t it?

  7. TJ says:

    @ Dennis: Yep and guess what… with no cables needed :D