When a celebrity does something despicable and your despicable eyes widen with interest, a part of your despicable brain might be struggling to hide this pleasure. According to a paper recently published in the journal Social Neuroscience, your brain is embarrassed by your TMZ-schadenfreude.
A group of Chinese researchers took brain scans of 17 students while they heard items of gossip — about themselves, friends, and celebrities. They found that there was a discrepancy in the way that these subjects described their level of entertainment and the way their brains reacted, particularly to negative gossip about celebrities. Wired’s Christian Jarrett writes:
While the students claimed there was nothing especially entertaining about the negative celebrity gossip, a part of their brain known to be involved in the experience of pleasure (the caudate nucleus) was extra active when they heard stories of movie stars doing naughty things. What’s more, this negative celebrity gossip was also associated with extra activity in regions known to be involved in self-control, suggesting that the students were trying to conceal their guilty pleasure.
Our poor brains and the awful stuff we make them read … No wonder they’re all confused.