August 16, 2005


Have You Heard? Gossip Turns Out to Serve a Purpose (BENEDICT CAREY, 8/16/05, NY Times)

Gossip has long been dismissed by researchers as little more than background noise, blather with no useful function. But some investigators now say that gossip should be central to any study of group interaction.

People find it irresistible for good reason: Gossip not only helps clarify and enforce the rules that keep people working well together, studies suggest, but it circulates crucial information about the behavior of others that cannot be published in an office manual. As often as it sullies reputations, psychologists say, gossip offers a foothold for newcomers in a group and a safety net for group members who feel in danger of falling out.

"There has been a tendency to denigrate gossip as sloppy and unreliable" and unworthy of serious study, said David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biology and anthropology at the State University of New York at Binghamton and the author of "Darwin's Cathedral," a book on evolution and group behavior. "But gossip appears to be a very sophisticated, multifunctional interaction which is important in policing behaviors in a group and defining group membership."

When two or more people huddle to share inside information about another person who is absent, they are often spreading important news, and enacting a mutually protective ritual that may have evolved from early grooming behaviors, some biologists argue. [...]

Sneaking, lying and cheating among friends or acquaintances make for the most savory material, of course, and most people pass on their best nuggets to at least two other people, surveys find.

This grapevine branches out through almost every social group and it functions, in part, to keep people from straying too far outside the group's rules, written and unwritten, social scientists find.

Can't you just hear the darker moths warning each other about the light colored ones with "jungle fever?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 16, 2005 10:34 AM

I guess that BS somehow adds something to the human character also. We'd all be better off if nobody did it. Did I ever tell you people about the time...

Posted by: AllenS at August 16, 2005 10:42 AM

Congratulations OJ. You scored a girect hit on my keyboard with my coffee.

Posted by: Luciferous at August 16, 2005 11:00 AM

The mindless talk of others, the average talk of events, the great talk of ideas.

Posted by: BJW at August 16, 2005 11:01 AM


Right on the 'g', by the looks of it :)

Posted by: Brit at August 16, 2005 11:32 AM

"Can't you just hear the darker moths warning each other about the light colored ones with "jungle fever?""

Or the bees telling each other where nectar is to be found?

Posted by: creeper at August 16, 2005 3:38 PM

"Bingo! See--you're learning. In one day you acknowledged that evolution underlies not just Darwinism but Creationism and ID and that Darwinism isn't like the other sciences."

If by "Darwinism" you mean "evolutionary biology", it's hardly new that I have held that it isn't like some other sciences, but that it is still very much a science. That evolutionary biology is not a science, but a philosophy is the claim you make but are unable to support with anything other than willful distortions of Mayr's words. "Not a science like the other science" does not mean "not a science", but "a different science from the other sciences".

Where did I supposedly acknowledge that evolution underlies creationism (defined as "Belief in the literal interpretation of the account of the creation of the universe and of all living things related in the Bible.")? I have consistently stated the opposite.

Posted by: creeper at August 17, 2005 1:47 AM

Tut-tut, no backsliding.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2005 8:50 AM

Backsliding from what?

Posted by: creeper at August 18, 2005 6:37 AM