We may think celebrity gossip is a recent phenomenon, but it actually dates back centuries. While our fascination with the lives of the rich and famous can seem vacuous, there’s actually some strong evolutionary traits powering it. Chiefly is our desire to learn everything we can about successful people so that we might one day become one ourselves. Another prime reason is that knowing more gossip could improve our social standing.
Then there’s the simple pleasures of schadenfreude: enjoying the misery or troubles of others. In a 2015 Chinese study, participants admitted preferring to hear negative news about their friends and celebrities rather than positive news. Brain scans of the study participants revealed that they took particular joy in the misery of celebs, which would explain our seeming gravitational pull to seek out that kind of silly, trashy news about random strangers.