Mera Bharat Mahan 21: Science behind Chinese whispers

The game of Chinese whispers is a classic example of violent communication and gossip.

Gossip is defined as – when you talk about others in their absence without facts or source. It invariably involves judgments about somebody without facts. It is neither based on facts nor is it necessary and kind.

Chinese whisper is an exercise where in a gathering a sentence is given to one person and this sentence is whispered to the ear of the second person in the line and so on passed forwards till it reaches back to the same person. By the time it reaches the same person, the facts are usually distorted.

A classic example is:

The sentence is – “Dr. XYZ yesterday was spotted with a young beautiful girl in the market.”

The sentence is passed, and it becomes – “Dr. XYZ is nowadays seen with girls in the market.”

It may change to – “The character of Dr. XYZ is bad, he is nowadays spotted with beautiful girls.”

It may also change to –“The character of Dr. XYZ is bad and he now roams around with call girls.”

The fact was that Dr. XYZ was with his daughter going for shopping in the market.

When you gossip, you always add your judgment, interpretation and perception into it and that is how it gets distorted. It is also based on rumor. It is also dependent on the fact that anything, which is heard for less than 10 seconds, is not retained and then you try to assume what might have been heard.

One should learn to avoid gossip as it invariably reaches to the person whom you are criticizing, condemning or complaint about. The message often gets distorted.

Never be judgmental and always quote the source when you are talking. Instead of criticizing a person in his absence, you should have guts to speak in his presence.

The phenomenon is well described in Taittiriya-upanishad 2nd Anuvaka (Shiksha Valli). The Upaniṣhad follows a lesson on Śikṣā, the doctrine of pronunciation (phonetics).

ॐ शीक्षां व्याख्यास्यामः । वर्णः स्वरः । मात्रा बलम् । साम सन्तानः । इत्युक्तः शीक्षाध्यायः ॥

“o śīkā vyākhyāsyāma | vara svara | mātrā balam | sāma santāna | ityukta śīkādhyāya ||

“Om! We shall treat of the phonetics: sound, rhythm, quantity, strength, modulation, union. Thus has been declared the lesson on phonetics.”

The Upanishad clearly talks about the importance of correct pronunciation or you will not grasp the meaning of the sentence.

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