八卦不仅无害,而且还对改善这个世界做出了贡献

八卦不仅无害,而且还对改善这个世界做出了贡献
标准 909
A couple of weeks ago I bumped into a man I used to work with. We chatted for a bit about people we knew in journalism, and I volunteered that so-and-so had just left his wife and was now shacked up with one of his underlings. My ex-colleague pursed his lips. I don’t do gossip, he said.
几周前,我碰巧遇到一位过去的同事。聊了一阵我们在新闻业中的旧相识之后,我主动提到,某某某刚和老婆分手,现在正和一名下属同居。这位前同事撅撅嘴,说他不爱八卦。
For about two seconds I felt ashamed of myself, but then I felt cross with him instead. What a prig. How can you be a former journalist and not do gossip?
有那么大约两秒钟的功夫,我为自己感到羞耻。不过,我随即就对他感到生气。这个假正经!你怎么可能当过记者却不八卦?
Gossip has a bad name. The Oxford dictionary defines it disdainfully as “unconstrained conversation . . . about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true”. Yet it has always struck me as one of those rare guilty pleasures where pleasure outweighs guilt. The damage done to the subject of the gossip is generally negligible, while the fun and fellow feeling created between the chatterers is considerable.
“八卦”一词的名声不太好。牛津英语词典轻蔑地将这个词定义为“涉及他人、细节真实性未经验证的……不节制的谈话”。不过,在我看来,八卦虽说是一种“罪恶的乐趣”,但其乐趣成分罕见地超过了其罪过。对于八卦的对象来说,八卦造成的损害通常可以忽略不计,而聊天者从中获得的乐趣和融洽感却是显而易见的。
However, according to recent research from Stanford University, published in Psychological Science, not only have I done no harm by gossiping, I have been making the world a finer place. Talking about people behind their backs increases co-operation, upholds the moral code, punishes the selfish and rewards the unselfish. And if people know they get voted off the island for bad behaviour, they behave less badly.
不过,根据斯坦福大学(Stanford University)最近的一项研究(该研究成果发表于美国《心理科学》(Psychological Science)杂志),八卦不仅无害,还对改善这个世界做出了贡献。在背后谈论他人能增进合作,弘扬道德准则,惩罚自私者并奖励无私者。如果“恶人”知道自己会因恶行被大家“投票踢走”,他们就会收敛一点。
If this is right, it suggests gossip is particularly important in offices. It helps us know who to avoid, it undermines bullying bosses, it binds people together and shores up a company’s culture.
如果属实,这个结论意味着八卦在职场上有特殊的重要性。它能帮助我们了解应躲开谁,能削弱那些霸道的老板,能增进团结,还能巩固企业文化。
Soon after reading the study, I found myself at it again over coffee with a colleague. I mentioned a well- known broadcaster with whom I had worked in the past and said although he was clearly talented, there was something about him that was a bit, well, weird. My colleague agreed. He too had worked with the man and said he was a prima donna and a bully, and that the only views he rated were his own.
就在读到这篇论文后不久,我在和一位同事喝咖啡时又八卦了一次。当时我提到一位我曾与之共事过的知名播音员,我说他尽管显然很有才华,不过为人有点……怎么说呢……有点怪。我的同事表示同意。他也曾与这个人共事过,他说这个人自大又霸道,只在乎自己的看法。
I listened agog; instead of feeling sullied, I congratulated myself on having contributed to the public good by expressing disapproval of bullies and egotists.
我兴奋地听他说着,不但没有“非礼勿听”的感觉,反而觉得自豪,因为我做了件有益于大家的好事——表达了自己对霸道和自大的否定。
But then I saw a weakness in the system. For gossip to promote good behaviour it is not enough for tut-tutting to take place behind someone’s back. The subject has to get wind of it – which can be easier said than done. Next time I see the broadcaster, I’m not going to edge away in disgust; I’ll probably be all nicey-nicey.
不过,接着我就发现,这种机制有一个缺陷。要想起到促进善行的作用,只在别人背后唠叨是不够的。必须让当事人听到这些话——而这说起来容易,做起来难。下次我见到这位播音员时,我不会反感地躲开,反而可能会对他非常友好。
Indeed, what is truly remarkable is that given how much gossip there is (according to the anthropologist Robin Dunbar, two-thirds of all human conversation is gossip) and given how each of us must get gossiped about the whole time, how little we know about what people are saying about us behind our backs. I don’t have a clue what people say when I’m not around – which might be bad for my chances of improving, but it makes for an easier life.
事实上,考虑到人们八卦之频繁(根据人类学家罗宾•邓巴(Robin Dunbar)的说法,人类所有言谈有三分之二是八卦),以及我们每个人一直以来必然都经常会被别人八卦,真正令人惊叹的是,我们居然对别人在背后如何谈论我们知之甚少。我不知道我不在的时候别人会说些什么,这或许不利于我进步,不过这倒能让我的生活更轻松一点。
There are various reasons why gossip does not usually get back to the person being gossiped about. First, as the whole point is that it is a) secret and b) usually considered of dodgy veracity, we are programmed not to act on it. An even bigger obstacle is that hierarchy trumps tittle-tattle every time. Voting people off the island on gossip grounds is particularly impossible if that person happens to be above you in the pecking order.
八卦通常不会传回当事人的耳边,原因多种多样。首先,八卦之所以是八卦,就是因为八卦首先是是秘密的,其次是真实性默认存疑,因此,我们本来就不会对八卦的内容采取行动。更大的障碍在于,等级制度总是能压过闲言碎语。如果一个人的“江湖地位”在你之上,通过八卦将这个人“踢走”尤其不可能。
More fundamentally, there are two problems with the idea of gossip as a regulating, moral force. The first is that the gossip needs to be mostly true – which is doubtful given its negative bias. “Psst, did you hear that x is a terrific, hardworking boss?” isn’t much of a story. Second, gossip isn’t always motivated by our moral values. In spreading the gossip about the journalist’s concubine I wasn’t necessarily upholding the sanctity of marriage. I was merely indicating I found the news a bit diverting.
更根本的原因在于,让八卦发挥道德监督作用的想法有两个问题。首先,这要求八卦必须大多属实,而考虑到八卦的内容一般偏负面,其真实性值得怀疑。“嘘,你听说了吗,某某某是个特好的老板,工作特勤奋。”这样的“八卦”算不上什么八卦。其次,八卦并不总是受到人们道德感的驱使。在传播那位记者跟人同居的八卦时,我未必是在维护婚姻的神圣性,只不过是觉得这消息可作谈资。
Instead, the true value of gossip has nothing to do with the person being gossiped about, and everything to do with the people doing it. Last week I was introduced to a senior banker who turned out to have been at university at the same time as me. He mentioned the name of a famous contemporary and then said darkly: “He had quite a past. Nothing illegal, but wild.”
八卦的真正价值其实和八卦的当事人无关,而和八卦的传播者密切相关。不久前我被引见给一位资深银行家,结果发现他和我是同一时期上大学的。当时,他提到一位著名的同龄人,然后幽幽地说:“他的故事可多了。虽然谈不上犯法,但也够疯狂的。”
“Really?” I said. “Do tell.”
“真的么?”我问道,“快说说是怎么回事。”
And so he told me how this legendary businessperson used to be a rabid womaniser, which we agreed was surprising as he wasn’t much of a looker.
于是他告诉我,这位传奇商人大学时可谓猎艳高手。考虑到他的长相不算出众,我俩都觉得这挺让人惊讶的。
This gossip served no social or moral purpose. It was in the deep past. It was tenuous. It was quite irrelevant to anything. And yet it was still valuable. It told me about this banker: I’m quite fun, but I’m not entirely to be trusted.
这条八卦没什么社会价值,也没什么道德价值。它发生在久远的过去,事情本身无足轻重,跟任何东西都毫不相干。不过这条八卦还是有价值的。它向我透露出:这位银行家是个很有趣的人,但不太值得信赖。

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  • 来源:互联网 2019-07-16