Women may be more likely than men to use gossiping and rumour-mongering as tactics to badmouth a potential rival who is competing for a man’s attention.
Women also gossip more about other women’s looks, whereas men talk about cues to resource holding (wealth) and the athleticism of their competitors, said the study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.
“Gossiping is a highly evolved social skill and an intrasexual competition tactic that relates to women’s and men’s evolved preferences,” said Adam Davis of the University of Ottawa in Canada.
The researchers surveyed across 290 heterosexual Canadian students between the ages of 17 and 30 years with three questionnaires — one measuring how competitive the participants are towards members of the same sex as their own, especially in terms of access to the attention of potential mates.
The other questionnaires measured the tendency and likelihood of the participants to gossip about others, the perceived social value of gossip, and whether it is okay to talk about others behind their backs.
It was found that people who were competitive towards members of their own sex had a greater tendency to gossip. They were also more comfortable with the practice than others.
Women had a greater tendency to gossip than men. They participated in more chit-chat and enjoyed it even further.
Women also found gossip to have greater social value, which may allow them to gather more information about possible competitors in the game of finding a mate.
The findings provide evidence that gossip is an intrasexual competition tactic that corresponds to women’s and men’s evolved mate preferences.
It also reflects the different strategies used by the sexes in their quest to find suitable mates, Davis said.
“The findings demonstrate that gossip is intimately linked to mate competition and not solely the product of a female gender stereotype that may be viewed as pejorative,” Davis added.