Hearing something bad about someone i.e. negative gossip could make that person's face more recognizable than hearing positive or neutral gossip, say researchers.
The study led by psychology graduate student Eric Anderson of Northeastern University in Boston said that people find it particularly easy to see the faces of individuals about whom they've heard nasty or unpleasant gossip.
"Encountering negative gossip about someone makes it easier to register that person's face than neutral or positive gossip does," the Discovery News quoted Northeastern psychologist and study coauthor Lisa Feldman Barrett as saying.
Not only does the new study show that disapproving gossip quickly gets associated with a matching face, but that this connection operates outside conscious awareness, said cognitive neuroscientist Moshe Bar of Harvard Medical School.
"A negative bias that originated in gossip made corresponding faces pop out in conditions where observers would have otherwise remained unconscious of those faces," said Bar.
In their study, volunteers saw faces linked to negative gossip for a longer time than any others, including those faces that had been related to upsetting personal experiences.