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Attraction Study Reveals Why Women Gossip More Than Men

Update Date: Oct 28, 2013 05:44 PM EDT

Men throw punches and women use words when gunning for romantic rivals.

New research reveals that women regularly use "indirect aggression" by criticizing their competitor's appearance, spreading rumors about their sexual behavior and excluding them from their social groups.

Psychologists said that females tend to use passive aggressive strategies against other attractive and sexually available competitors.

Lead researcher Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt of the University of Ottawa said that indirect aggression is an "effective approach" among girls and women at the peak of their reproductive value. The latest study shows that 52 percent of 15-year-old girls employ indirect aggression compared to one in five of their male counterparts.

Researchers explain that females choose to use indirect aggression to lower the risk of physical danger to themselves as well as make it appear as if there was no intention to hurt at all.

This makes sense because it is more important for females to stay alive so their offspring are also more likely to survive. Researchers explain that offspring survival is directly linked to maternal survival. This is true historically and currently in many developing countries.

The study reveals that the use of indirect aggression and victimization increases in relation to mating motives. The use of these dirty tricks also increases with age and is used at a similar rate during adolescence and young adulthood.

"The fact indirect aggression is primarily used by teenage girls and young women, who direct their aggression at same sex peers, is in keeping with the hypothesis indirect aggression is used in the context of competing for mates," said Vaillancourt, according to the Daily Mail.

Previous studies revealed that physically attractive women and those who are perceived as being too sexually available are more at risk of being indirectly victimized by other females.  Psychologists believe that this is because sex is a limited resource women use to bargain with men, and scarcity of sex gives women more to bargain with.

"That is, females, not males, suppress the sexuality of other females and they do so by using informal sanctions such as ostracism and derogatory gossip," said Vaillancourt, according to International Business Times.  "In other words, females punish other females who seem to make sex too readily available using indirect aggression. There are some studies supporting this line of reasoning."

"A clear way indirect aggression serves an individual's goal is by reducing her same sex rivals' ability, or desire, to compete for mates," said Vaillancourt. "This is typically accomplished in a concealed way which diminishes the risk of a counter attack. Although indirect aggression is used effectively by girls and women in a manner that reduces the aggressor's risk, it is not used without peril."

The study is published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

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