Rumor is a piece of information that spreads from person to person without confirmation whether it is true or not. It is a kind of hearsay that can be false or inaccurate, and it can have a major impact on society.
In the modern era, rumors can be easily spread on social networking services (SNS) where everyone is both a spreader and a recipient of information. As a result, rumors can cause great panic in society if they are unfounded. For instance, a rumor about the Fukushima nuclear leakage that caused salt to be polluted was widely spread in 2011, leading to a large number of people buying up salt in a panic.
Some rumors are created to lift people’s anxieties, while others are just false stories. These rumors can be classified by their credibility, ambiguity, and importance. People who have a more anxious personality or are in an anxiety-lifting situation are more likely to create a rumor, while the credibility of a rumor depends on how much evidence is provided. Rumors can be ambiguous when they do not provide concrete evidence but are rather vague and uncertain, such as “John Kerry is French” or “Obama has an illegitimate black child.”
The importance of a rumor is the degree to which it relates to people’s lives. For example, a rumor about the contamination of salt from the Fukushima nuclear leakage is highly relevant to people’s daily life and easily spreads. On the other hand, a rumor about a celebrity’s love life or a political scandal is not as relevant and is harder to spread.
Another factor that influences a rumor’s spreading is its source. Some rumors are more credible than others because they come from well-known and authoritative sources. This is because people believe that what comes from a well-known source must be truthful.
It has been reported that crowd classification based on personality can also influence a rumor’s spreading process. This is because a person’s personality can affect their internal perception and their responses to a rumor. For example, some people are radical and easily believe a rumor they hear, while others are steady and calm, and require more evidence before they accept a rumor.