From the Chicago Tribune:
Gossiping about neighbors, co-workers and, increasingly, celebrities all grows from the same evolutionary root: survival. Back in the day, if you didn’t care to find out what was going on, you were more likely to die and less likely to pass on your incurious genes.
“People who had no interest in the private affairs of other people just got left in the dust,” says Frank McAndrew, a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, who has written about gossip.
“The assumption people seem to make is, if we’re interested in gossip or celebrities, that in some way it reflects badly on us as individuals,” says McAndrew. “Most of my research says it really isn’t the case, that it’s just human nature to be interested in what other people are up to.”
To that end he wrote a cover article for October’s Scientific American Mind magazine, “The Science of Gossip: Why We Can’t Stop Ourselves.”