You’re chatting to some friends at a party and they point out someone standing in a different part of the room. That person, they inform you, is a nasty piece of work. He cheats on his girlfriend. He picks fights with strangers. Once, he bit a puppy. You’d never seen him before but after this character assassination, you start noticing him everywhere – in other parties, on the street, on Facebook.
This sort of thing happens all the time. If we get information about people from third parties – gossip – we start paying more attention to those people. There’s a simple reason for this. Gossip, especially negative gossip, affects not only our judgment, but our vision too. It influences both what we think about someone and whether we see them in the first place.