Factors That Affect the Accuracy of a Rumor


A rumor is unconfirmed information that circulates among persons endeavoring to make sense of a situation that is ambiguous or potentially threatening. It is of topical interest and has a generally positive or negative tone but is never verified by any official sources. It may be based on fact or fantasy. The word derives from Middle English rumour, from Latin rumor (common talk).

A new social media technology has emerged that allows for the rapid spread of unverified claims. These rumors can be very harmful, especially if they have a serious impact on people’s lives. It is therefore important for individuals to be careful when consuming rumours on the Internet and avoid believing them until they have been confirmed by an official source.

While a rumor can be anything that goes around from person to person, some studies have found that certain characteristics are associated with its transmission. For example, rumor is likely to be spread if it is dramatic or sensational. It is also more likely to be shared if it concerns a specific individual or group. Finally, a rumor is also more likely to be believed if it is based on a personal experience or observation.

Besides being unconfirmed, a rumor is often inaccurate. This is due to the sloppy way in which information is conveyed and because of cognitive mechanisms that reduce accuracy, such as narrowing attention, limited memory capacity and perceptual biases. A person’s motivation to share the rumor may also play a role. People tend to pass along rumors that are consistent with stereotypes, as they are easier to process.

Another factor that affects a rumor’s accuracy is its importance. People will discuss and support a rumor that is significant to them or that they believe is true, but they may be less willing to support a rumor that is not.

Studies have also found that a rumor’s accuracy depends on how it is disseminated. Those that are transmitted serially with interaction between the participants and those with little or no discussion are more accurate than those that are passed on in isolation.

The popularity of a rumor can also be measured by the number of times it is retweeted. This is a good measure of its degree of diffusion because it indicates how many people are passing the rumor on. Using this method, researchers can determine the average number of retweets that each rumor receives and compare it with the overall average retweet count for all tweets.

There are four components that contribute to managing rumours: anxiety, ambiguity, perceived importance of the rumor and the nature of the supporting information. Anxiety is a major contributor, as individuals are more likely to create and circulate a rumor in an attempt to lift their anxieties. Ambiguity, on the other hand, encourages rumor creation and propagation because people speculate about the potential causes of an event to feel more confident in their understanding of it. Lastly, the importance of a rumor can be measured by the amount of emotional investment involved in it.