If this new study is anything to go by, two things seem pretty certain: one, we collectively love to gossip (in fact, celebrity related gossip really piques our interest) and two, we’re ashamed of number one. Chances are, when reading the first part of that sentence, you denied your enjoyment of gossip. You can’t fool science, we’re afraid.
Yes, your Perez Hiltons and your Daily Mail ‘sidebar of shame’ certainly leave your brain craving something a little more engaging, but somewhere in that head of yours, you’re deriving pleasure from reading about Kim Kardashian’s latest attempts at breaking the internet or Lindsay Lohan’s latest meltdown. Why the embarrassment then?
As per a paper published recently in the journalSocial Neuroscience, a group of Chinese researchers examined brain scans of 17 participating students as they listened to various gossip chatter about themselves, about their friends and of course about relevant Chinese celebrities.
What won’t come as much of a surprise are the results that suggest how the students preferred listening to positive gossip about themselves than about anyone else. Contrary to this, they enjoyed negative gossip more when it was about friends and celebrities than when it was about themselves. Ovbiously.
Interestingly, though, further results showed that their brains reacted in a different manner when listening to negative gossip, than the students were prepared to admit when it came to recording their levels of enjoyment later on.
Wired’s Christian Jarrett explains:
“While the students claimed there was nothing especially entertaining about the negative celebrity gossip, a part of their brain known to be involved in the experience of pleasure (the caudate nucleus) was extra active when they heard stories of movie stars doing naughty things. What’s more, this negative celebrity gossip was also associated with extra activity in regions known to be involved in self-control, suggesting that the students were trying to conceal their guilty pleasure.”