I  remember when I was a kid and the neighbor ladies would hang their clothes washing out on the line. As they pinned the clothes on the line, one neighbor lady would be gossiping with the other neighbor about "so and so". I used to hide behind the bright white sheets flapping in the breeze, and listen. Funny thing though, I never could find a Mr. or Mrs. Soandso in my neighborhood.

Negative gossip actually alters the way our visual system responds to a particular face, according to a study published online by the journal Science.

The findings suggest that the human brain is wired to respond to gossip, researchers say. And it adds to the evidence that gossip helped early humans get ahead.

"Gossip is helping you to predict who is friend and who is foe," says Lisa Feldman Barrett, distinguished professor of psychology at Northeastern University and an author of the study.

Barrett is part of a team that has been studying how gossip affects not just what we know about an unfamiliar person but how we feel about them. The team has shown that getting secondhand information about a person can have a powerful effect.