Gossip Is Good

An adult, right, and a juvenile capuchin monkey are seen demonstrating food sharing behavior in this undated handout photo.
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
I'm not much of a gossip. Sometimes I'll dip in and listen -- usually to hear of someone else's woes. I'll admit to enjoying that sense of shaedenreude, taking the slightest bit of glee at someone else's suffering -- especially if that someone is wildly popular and celebrated.

But, as a rule, I don't traffic in the stuff. And most of the time, it's flat out wrong. Tales of inflated wrong doing, of pending doom, or undeserved reward -- it rarely turns out to be true.

Now we read in the science section of the New York Times that gossip is good.

David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biology and anthropology, claims that gossip appears to be a very sophisticated, malfunctional interaction which is important in policing behaviors in a group and defining group membership. Hmmmm.

The article goes on to speculate that gossip may have some roots that go all the way back to grooming behavior. So let me get this straight. That by telling a friend of a colleague about a rumor I heard about the behavior of one of the executives of our company, it's the same as having one of my fellow primates pull a tic off my shoulder? Hmm. Gossip then is good. Can you even imagine what life would be like if we were covered with bugs?

The next time someone sidles up to you and says did you hear about so and so, don't shrink away or hold up your hand and say I'm not interested. Invite them to sit down and prepare to be cleansed.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith