How Fast Does a Rumor Spread?


A rumor is an unsubstantiated story that spreads from person to person through social interaction. Rumors may be true or false and can have a significant impact on the behavior of a crowd, both for good and bad, and often cause anxiety. Rumors are often difficult to control and can become widespread in a very short time. The success of a rumor is often determined by its credibility and its relevance to people’s lives, the speed at which it spreads, the accuracy of the information, and the number of people who believe it.

Anxiety is one of the most important factors in determining how fast a rumor will spread. Anxiety, both situational and personal, leads to rumors because it motivates people to talk with others in an attempt to thwart the feared negative event or to afford themselves a psychological sense of control over the situation. People tend to discuss more important rumors-rumors that pertain to an outcome that is directly related to their own interests-and pass them along more quickly than less relevant rumors.

Other factors in rumor transmission include the level of information importance, ambiguity, and the rate at which it is transmitted. A rumor will spread more quickly when it is perceived as being more important, for example, if the rumor involves a personal or private matter that affects a large number of individuals, such as a family tragedy or a terrorist attack. People will also spread a rumor more rapidly when it is less clear and ambiguous, for example, when the rumor contains vague and unspecified details about a particular person or event.

There are also a number of different social network mechanisms that affect rumor transmission, including the frequency of contact between people and the way in which a rumor is shared. For example, a rumor will spread more rapidly in a homogeneous group than in a heterogeneous group because there are fewer differences among the members of the group. Additionally, a rumor will spread more quickly if it is repeated over and over again by the same people.

A rumor will also spread more quickly if the tellers are more likely to be gullible or curious. Therefore, it is important to choose your tellers carefully if you want a rumor to get off the ground. Generally, it is best to start a rumor with a person who is a natural gossip and has many friends. It is also important to keep the circle of people that know about the rumor small because it will be more likely to remain a secret if only a few people are in on it. Lastly, if you can convince people that the rumor is true, they will be more likely to pass it on. This can be done by displaying evidence, such as pictures or quotes from an accessible source, or by presenting your own reasoning. In addition, if you can persuade the gullible or curious to be part of your rumor-telling team, they will be more likely to pass it along and help it to go viral.