Watch Live:

Mean Girl Behavior Is the Norm, Science Says

ABC News Blogs
Mean Girl Behavior Is the Norm, Science Says
.

View photo

Mean Girl Behavior Is the Norm, Science Says (ABC News)

A new scientific review of nearly 100 evolutionary psychology papers claims that women are hardwired for cattiness.

Writing in the journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B., Tracy Vaillancourt, a professor of psychology at the University of Ottawa and lead author of the research analysis, maintains that gossip, back stabbing and shunning have evolved as effective ways for women to maximize the damage to their intended target while minimizing the dangers to themselves.

Translation: Women use trash talk as a safe way to take down their sexual rivals.

"On the one end of the spectrum, women use mild forms of indirect aggression to convey what they want so there is a lot of guess work to figure out what you did wrong," she explained. "At the other end of the spectrum, they spread rumors behind your back and destroy your reputation."

Kim Wallen, a psychologist at Emory University, said he had reviewed the analysis and is skeptical of Vaillancourt's views.

"Her work comes across as more opinion than review," he said. "She cites no empirical data to back up her claims."

Wallen said that Vaillancourt does not use a single statistic to support her theory and that many her references are also highly speculative.

Vaillancourt counters that the research is clear: Women are biologically programmed to perceive women who are younger, prettier or more desirable to potential mates as threats. To diffuse a threatening rival, women tend to employ passive aggressive behaviors. So rather than lift a finger, a woman will wound her opponent with contemptuous glances, unkind words and petty remarks.

Men, on the other hand, seem programmed to use direct aggression techniques like shouting and physical violence to defend their social turf, Vaillancourt said.

"They practice indirect aggression too but their repertoire is greater and they use a variety of aggression modes to express their feelings," she noted.

Also, when men are the victim of a gossip attack they are often oblivious, Vaillancourt said the research showed. Even when they do pick up on the signals, they're likely to let any negativity roll off their backs. She said that this is in contrast to women, who are exquisitely tuned into damaging secrets and whispers.

Vaillancourt said that in the studies she reviewed, women demonstrated a far greater physical and psychological response to nasty rumors than men do. Female gossip targets frequently reported having elevated heart rates and feelings of anxiety and depression.

Although many women don't like to hear it, Vaillancourt said that passively vicious behavior is widespread and universal. And she said this should come as no surprise to most women.

"Unless you live in a cave, I cannot believe there is any woman on the planet who has not engaged in this kind of behavior, experienced it directly or witnessed it as a bystander," she said.

So what do you think? Ever witness a Mean Girl in action? Have your own claws ever come out in a fit of jealousy? Leave your least catty comments below.

View Comments (25)

Recommended for You

  • Prince William and Kate's 5th Wedding Anniversary: 5 Momentous Moments From Their Marriage

    Five years ago today, millions of people around the world watched as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said "I will" in a royal wedding at Westminster Abbey. The world’s eyes have stayed focused on the young royals ever since, watching as William, 33, and Kate, 34, traveled the world and grew…

    Good Morning America57 mins ago
  • First Commercial Zika Virus Test Gets FDA Approval

    The Food and Drug Administration approved the first commercial U.S. test Thursday to diagnose the Zika virus. The news comes as states and the federal government struggle to get ahead of the epidemic as it makes its way to the U.S. Quest Diagnostics says it has received emergency authorization…

    Good Morning America13 mins ago
  • Suspect Who Prompted Evacuation of Baltimore TV News Station Identified

    A man dressed in an animal "onesie" costume was shot by police today when he refused to surrender after reportedly making a bomb threat at a Baltimore TV news station, authorities said. Law enforcement officials identified the man to ABC News as Alex Brizzi, 25, of Howard County, Maryland. A…

    Good Morning America
  • Bridal Bootcamp Workout Tips to Whip You Into Shape for the Big Day

    Every bride wants to look and feel amazing on their special day.Fitness expert Nikki Kimbrough joined “Good Morning America"'s "Wide World of Weddings" live stream to show our viewers some great high-intensity interval training workouts that will lengthen and define those arms, sculpt your…

    Good Morning America
  • Search Warrant Issued for Prince's Paisley Park Estate

    Authorities have obtained a search warrant for Prince’s Paisley Park estate, but the court has authorized sealing it, ABC News confirmed Thursday. The paperwork was filed one day after law enforcement sources told ABC News that prescription drugs were found in Prince’s possession and at his home. …

    Good Morning America
  • Legally Blind 5th Grader Sees Mother for 1st Time Through Electronic Glasses

    Fifth grader Christopher Ward, Jr., has been legally blind all his life, but he recently got to see his mother for the first time through new electronic glasses. The 12-year-old from Forest, Virginia, traveled up to Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago to demo a new wearable technology called eSight,…

    Good Morning America
  • Top 9 Best Wedding Registry Gifts for Engaged Couples

    Wedding season is upon us, which means it’s time to start thinking about the best gifts for the bride and groom. Good Housekeeping Institute’s chief technologist Rachel Rothman joined “Good Morning America"'s "Wide World of Weddings" live stream to help our viewers create the ultimate registry…

    Good Morning America
  • Who Is 'Becky?': Beyonce's 'Lemonade' Sparks New Interest

    Thanks to Beyonce's latest album "Lemonade," the entire Internet is asking one question: "Who is Becky?"In a song titled "Sorry," the singer croons of a woman who decides to go out and party with her friends after she's caught her husband cheating. Bey sings, "He better call Becky with the good…

    Good Morning America
  • Shifting Electoral Focus Stands Out in 2016 Race

    This presidential election stands out for many reasons, but one unexpected deviation is how it has changed the way the campaigns have mapped out their course. Prioritizing some later states in this election -- like New York earlier this month and Indiana next Tuesday -- comes as a confluence of…

    Good Morning America
  • Twitter Reacts to Donald Trump's Accusation That Hillary Clinton Is Playing the 'Woman Card'

    Donald Trump recently accused Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton of using the “woman card” to get elected. "I think the only card she has is the women's card," Trump said in New York earlier this week. Trump went on to argue, “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't…

    Good Morning America
  • Ron Miscavige Claims the Church of Scientology Hired Private Investigators to Spy on Him

    Ron Miscavige, the father of the Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, claims the Church hired two private investigators, who followed him for over a year after he left the Church in 2012, to spy on him. In an exclusive interview with ABC News “20/20,” Ron Miscavige said he found out about…

    Good Morning America
  • Ted Cruz Says There Is ‘No Alliance’ With John Kasich to Stop Trump

    Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said Thursday there is "no alliance" with fellow GOP candidate John Kasich to stop front-runner Donald Trump from securing the Republican presidential nomination. Kasich and I made a determination where to focus our energies, where to focus our assets,…

    Good Morning America
  • Grown Preemie Triplets Donate Pajamas to Tiny Residents in NICU Where They Once Stayed

    A set of triplets who were born premature paid it forward last week after donating pajamas to the babies of the NICU in the hospital where they were born 10 years ago. "I couldn't be more proud," dad Ty Swarts of Shawnee, Kansas, told ABC News. In lieu of birthday gifts, Luke, Taya and Brady…

    Good Morning America
  • Missouri Cops Rescued From Elevator With 'Severely Injured' Egos

    A dozen Kansas City police officers were rescued Wednesday afternoon after getting stuck in an elevator, officials said. The Missouri cops were training at the police academy when an elevator apparently stopped because of their combined weight. Academy staff had to make an “embarrassing” call to…

    Good Morning America
  • Men Break Down Reading Mean Tweets to Female Sports Reporters

    A video of male sports fans reading "real comments about women sports reporters to their face" has been watched online by millions of people. The team behind Just Not Sports, a podcast dedicated to sports culture, asked "a mix of people," including friends and family, to read mean and often…

    Good Morning America
  • Indiana 'Really Important' for Bernie Sanders, Win or Lose

    Sen. Bernie Sanders has turned his attention to Indiana, despite his diminishing chances to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. "Bernie Sanders began the process of conceding in his speech on Tuesday, when he said he would take this to the convention for the purpose of influencing the…

    Good Morning America
  • Teen's Coffee Shop 'Promposal' for Friend With Down Syndrome Will Melt Your Heart

    A teen's touching "promposal" to her friend with Down syndrome is going viral on Facebook after it was captured on video. Lillie Wright, 17, surprised her friend and co-worker Trevor Jefferson, 21, at Beau's Coffee in Wilmington, North Carolina, on April 25 by asking him to prom with a cute…

    Good Morning America
  • Ed Balls Day: The Story of an Immortalized Twitter Fail

    Ed Balls, who was the finance chief for the opposition Labour Party at the time, tweeted out his own name: Ed Balls. It was his first tweet, and one that immediately sparked a meme. The story behind the famous tweet is that Balls’ aides had encouraged him to search for his own name on Twitter to…

    Good Morning America
  • Teen Leukemia Survivor to Announce Denver Broncos NFL Draft Pick

    A 16-year-old Denver Broncos fan who survived a leukemia.htm" id="ramplink_bone marrow transplant_" target="_blank" bone marrow transplant to treat a rare form of cancer will get a one-of-a-kind opportunity tonight at the 2016 NFL Draft. Daniel Hailpern, of Denver, Colorado, will stand next to NFL…

    Good Morning America
  • Adam Sandler Discovers His Unbelievable Look-alike

    Max Kessler is a 23-year-old accountant from New York who looks strikingly similar to Sandler. "As I am getting older [close to Sandler’s age when he played Happy Gilmore in 1996] people are noticing it more and more," Kessler told ABC News.

    Good Morning America