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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017 Mar;77:218-224. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.12.014. Epub 2017 Jan 4.

Something to talk about: Gossip increases oxytocin levels in a near real-life situation.

Author information

1
Department of Brain and Behavioral Sciences, Section of Psychiatry, University of Pavia, Via Bassi 21, 27100 Pavia, Italy. Electronic address: natascia.brondino@libero.it.
2
Department of Brain and Behavioral Sciences, Section of Psychiatry, University of Pavia, Via Bassi 21, 27100 Pavia, Italy.

Abstract

Gossip is a pervasive social behavior. Its evolutionary survival seems related to its social functions, such as establishing group rules, punishing trespassers, exercising social influence through reputational systems, and developing and strengthening social bonds. We aimed at evaluating the effect of gossip on hormones (oxytocin and cortisol) and at identifying potential mediators of hormonal response to gossip. Twenty-two female students were randomly assigned to a gossip conversation or to an emotional non-gossip conversation. Additionally, all participants underwent a neutral conversation on the second day of the study. Salivary oxytocin and cortisol levels were measured. Oxytocin increased significantly in the gossip compared to the emotional non-gossip conversation. A decrease in cortisol levels was observed in all three conditions (gossip, emotional non-gossip, neutral). Change in cortisol levels was similar across conditions. Psychological characteristics (e.g. empathy, autistic traits, perceived stress, envy) did not affect oxytocin rise in the gossip condition. Our findings suggest that oxytocin may represent a potential hormonal correlate of gossip behavior.

KEYWORDS:

Cortisol; Empathy; Gossip; Oxytocin

PMID:
28104555
DOI:
10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.12.014
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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