Project: Experimental studies on the evolutionary roots of gossip. Neuroendocrine, psychophysiological and psychological effects of gossip on stress.


  • Konrad Rudnicki (principal researcher)
  • Charlotte De Backer & Karolien Poels (supervisors)

Period: 2021-2024 (FWO Postdoctoral Fellow - junior)

Short description

Gossip is a universal social behavior proposed to serve a central role in the evolution of human sociality. Gossiping promotes in-group cooperation, trust, formation of new social bonds and maintenance of the existing ones. As a result, gossip was suggested to serve a similar role in humans that social grooming serves in other primates. Social grooming strengthens in-group ties, but also helps with the stress of group living by lowering the levels of stress hormones and alleviating the activity of stress-inducing physiological systems. The hypothesis that gossip serves similar functions as grooming is alluring, however, no research so far had investigated if it really has similar physiological effects. Gossip is often said to be stress relieving, but there is no data to support that claim. The purpose of this study is to fill that gap and answer the question if gossip lowers physiological stress levels. In two experimental studies and one correlational study we will investigate relationships between gossip and: non-social stressors, social stressors and stressors in the workplace. Physiological stress levels will be measured with state-of- the art biological markers: cortisol levels, beta-endorphin levels, electrodermal activity and heart rate variability. Additionally, subjective perceptions of stress in the study participants will also be measured with psychometric questionnaires in order to gather a complete picture of psycho-socio-biological effects of gossiping.