Why psychologists say gossiping is good for your brain

By Abigail Beall for Mail Online

The 'cuddle chemical' oxytocin is released when gossiping, lovemaking and other loving touches, like patting a dog. Photo / 123RF.com
The 'cuddle chemical' oxytocin is released when gossiping, lovemaking and other loving touches, like patting a dog. Photo / 123RF.com

If you were looking for an excuse to share that bit of juicy gossip, a group of psychologists might just have provided it.

A new study has found sharing gossip is good for you, no matter what kind of personality you have.

This is because levels of oxytocin, the so-called 'love' hormone, increase after sharing some gossip, compared to having a normal conversation.

Researchers from the University of Pavia in Italy studied the effects of gossip on 22 women.

Lead author of the study, Dr Natascia Brondino told VICE she wanted to study the effects of gossiping on the brain because she noticed she felt closer to her female colleagues after they gossiped.

"I started to wonder whether there was a biochemical cause for this feeling of closeness," she said.

The group found women's brains released more oxytocin after gossiping, compared with having an ordinary conversation about, for example, the weather.

Oxytocin is released during lovemaking, leading to it being nicknamed the "cuddle chemical".

Other loving touches, from hugging a teddy bear to patting a dog, also trigger its release.

The researchers studied only straight females because oxytocin can also be released when people are sexually aroused, and they did not want subjects to be attracted to one another and release the hormone for that reason.

The release of the hormone helps bring people closer together after they have gossiped, Dr Brondino says.

On evolutionary terms, the authors say gossip has its uses, including "establishing group rules, punishing trespassers, exercising social influence through reputational systems, and developing and strengthening social bonds."

The authors also found the effect does not change depending on the person's personality.

"Psychological characteristics, e.g. empathy, autistic traits, perceived stress, envy, did not affect oxytocin rise in the gossip condition," the authors wrote.

This means whether you think it or not, gossip is good for your brain.

What is oxytocin?

Oxytocin, known as the "love hormone", engenders trust and generosity.

Oxytocin is a hormone released naturally in the blood and brains of humans and other mammals, during social and sexual behaviours.

The hormone is produced by women during labour to help them bond with their baby.

It is also released during lovemaking, leading to it being nicknamed the "cuddle chemical".

Other loving touches, from hugging a teddy bear to patting a pet dog, also trigger its release.

- Daily Mail

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