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Gossiping is only human


At his inaugural lecture Professor Nicholas Emler, the University of Surrey’s newly appointed Head of School of Human Sciences, addresses just what separates us humans from all other species.

Humans are not unique in being social animals as many other species are also undeniably social in one way or another. Many live in groups, communicate, co-operate, make sacrifices for one another, and share resources. However, what sets us apart from the likes of ants, termites and bees is the fact that we communicate with language. What it means to be human is clearly defined by man’s use of language and his high level of intelligence, which is able to store and manage information. At the root of the difference lies what has historically been a rather disparaged activity - gossip.

Professor Emler says, ’Language is entirely unique among all so far understood forms of communication within species. It is unique in that it has syntax and contains the capacity to share social information’.

Evidence collected indicates that people talk about themselves as much as they talk about others. In other words, a significant part of what we know about people comes from the horse’s mouth. So, next time you are gossiping, just remember you are only being human!

Stuart Miller | alfa
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