Hounded by office stares - someone maybe gossipping about you

May 20th, 2011 - 5:08 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 20 (IANS) Do you wonder why your colleagues keep staring at you? Lingering stares in office may be a sign that you are being targeted by malicious gossip or wagging tongues.

Researchers have found that people unconsciously pay more attention to the faces of others about whom they have heard in defamatory or disparaging terms.

The reason stems from evolution when it was useful to know who to avoid and to keep an eye on them, they believe. It allowed humans to live in groups and to learn from others and not just from direct experience, reports the journal Science.

The team led by Northeastern University in Boston asked people to look at pictures of faces made to look as neutral as possible, some of which had been linked to negative gossip, some to positive and some to neutral, the Telegraph reports.

The negative gossip included: “threw a chair at his classmate”; the positive: “helped an elderly woman with her groceries” and neutral: “passed a man on the street”.

The researchers found that people’s eyes subconsciously lingered over the face connected with negative gossip.

“Gossip is a vital thread in human social interaction. As a type of instructed learning, gossip is a way to learn socially relevant information about other people’s character or personality without having to directly experience their triumphs and misadventures,” the researchers added.

“Whether delicious or destructive, gossip is functional. It provides human beings with information about others in the absence of direct experience, allowing us to live in very large groups.

“It is believed that gossip was important for social cohesion during the course of human evolution.”

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