Gossip As An Evolutionary Strategy In Competition For Mates

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Adam C. Davis, MSc

PhD Education student
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Charles Darwin argued that animals compete with members of the same sex for desired mates (i.e., intrasexual competition). Using this framework, evolutionary researchers have explored the variety of ways in which this kind of competition may play out across human cultures. Several researchers have argued that gossip may be an effective way for humans to compete for mates, but most of the research has been indirect up until this point.

In our study, we provide evidence that the reported tendency to compete with same-sex others for mates is associated with gossiping and positive attitudes toward learning about and spreading gossip. Gossip has also been argued to be women’s weapon of choice to compete for mates; however, few studies have tested this hypothesis. We provide evidence that women gossip to a greater extent than men, particularly about social information (e.g., friendships, romantic relationships) and the physical appearance of others (e.g., clothing), whereas men gossip more about achievement (e.g., salaries, promotions). Women also expressed more favourable attitudes toward gossiping than men.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The tendency to compete with same-sex rivals for relationship partners is linked to a greater tendency to gossip, greater enjoyment in gossiping, and more favourable attitudes toward spreading gossip about others.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The argument that gossip is women’s strategy of choice when competing for mates in comparison to men needs more direct support. Furthermore, although sex is highly associated with gender, future researchers should focus on how different gender identities may relate to gossip as a tactic for mate competition. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The results from our study suggest that the stereotype that gossip is nothing more than idle chit chat, particularly when associated with women, is incorrect. Women’s gossip about relationships and appearance are likely tactical and part of a strategy to compete with same-sex others for access to, or the retention of, desired relationship partners and things that may help them to achieve that end (e.g., popularity). 

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Evolutionary Psychological Science
Gossip as an Intrasexual Competition Strategy: Sex Differences in Gossip Frequency, Content, and Attitudes 

Adam C. Davis, Caroline Dufort, Jessica Desrochers, Tracy Vaillancourt, Steven Arnocky

First Online: 03 October 2017

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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