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Monday
Aug012011

Humans Are Hardwired to Gossip: Expert

George S. Zimbel/Getty Images(LONDON) -- You may feel like showering after reading about Casey Anthony’s newest post-trial drama or Lindsay Logan’s latest legal  issues, but if you find gossip hard to resist, you are not alone.

While seemingly tied to our 24-hour news cycle and countless celebrity magazines, one expert says out love of gossip is much older. The need to know everybody's dirty laundry is evolutionary, part of our earliest mechanisms for finding the best mate in order to survive and keep our species going says John Hardy, professor of neuroscience at University College London.

"Stripped down, gossip is largely about who is sleeping with who, who would like to sleep with who, and what the local pecking order is in terms of power and influence -- which, of course, influences who is sleeping with who," wrote Hardy in New Scientist magazine.

But, Hardy said, there's more to it than just sex. It also has to do with social survival, with being able to maneuver through the complexities of life in a village filled with differing personalities. In primitive times, those who were best at social maneuvering were the ones with the larger brains.

"Skillfulness in interpreting limited and inaccurate information is important," said "Part of gossiping is also embellishment and subtle inaccuracy. The whole point is for you to have a clearer view of what is happening than everyone else."

So according to Hardy, checking out TMZ or picking up the latest showbiz magazine is only doing precisely what our very distant ancestors did -- picking the most attractive members of our now-global village, and trying to find out more about them.

"We might be ashamed of it," he wrote, "but our brains were designed to lap it up."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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