Gossip more powerful than truth
Gossip is more powerful than truth, a study has revaled, suggesting people believe what they hear through the grapevine even if they have evidence to the contrary.
Researchers, testing students using a computer game, also found gossip played an important role when people make decisions, said Ralf Sommerfeld, an evolutionary biologist.
“We show that gossip has a strong influence... even when participants have access to the original information as well as gossip about the same information,” the researchers said. “Thus, it is evident that gossip has a strong manipulative potential.”
In the study, the researchers gave the students money and allowed them to give it to others in a series of rounds. The students also wrote notes about how others played the game that everyone could review.
Students tended to give less money to people described as ‘nasty misers’ or ‘scrooges’ and more to those depicted as ‘generous players’ or ‘social players,’ Sommerfeld said.
“People only saw the gossip, not the past decisions,” he said. “People really reacted on it.”
The researchers then took the game a step further and showed the students the actual decisions people had made. But they also supplied false gossip that contradicted that evidence.
In these cases, the students based their decisions to award money on the gossip, rather than the hard evidence, showing such information is a powerful tool, Sommerfeld said.
“Rationally if you know what the people did, you should care, but they still listened to what others said,” he said. “They even reacted on it if they knew better.”
In evolutionary terms, gossip can be an important tool for people to acquire information about others’ reputations or navigate through social networks at work and in their everyday lives, the study said. reuters