A rumor is a current story that is passed from one person to another without being verified. It is usually untrue and can be spread by word of mouth, email or text message. It is often about a famous person or event and can cause embarrassment, distress or fear. Rumors can also affect the reputation of a company or government and lead to public outrage. They can also influence people’s voting choices, especially if the rumors are about a candidate or political party.
Social scientists have identified several causes of rumor. These include anxiety, ambiguity, and information importance. Anxiety – the feeling of uncertainty about a situation – promotes rumor discussion as people talk with others to try to make sense of what is happening and predict what will happen. People tend to discuss rumors that affect them personally more than those that don’t. Rumors about important events or influential people also receive more attention and spread faster than rumors about minor events or insignificant individuals.
Anxiety can be heightened by ambiguity in a situation. Ambiguity can be caused by a lack of knowledge or by the complexity of a situation. It can also be caused by a person’s mental state, such as their stress level or their personality. People who are more anxious or who have an anxious personality are more likely to create a rumor to feel better about themselves. A rumor that is both ambiguous and important can be very effective at raising people’s awareness of an issue and changing their attitudes.
Research shows that rumor can be a powerful strategic communication tool. It can be used to build or destroy the reputation of a person or organization and can affect voting patterns, political opinions, and business decisions. It can be very difficult to control the impact of a rumor once it has been created.
Some companies and governments are accused of spreading rumors to damage their competitors. This is sometimes called “industrial sabotage” and can be very damaging to the reputation of a company. It is often done by employees, but it can also be done by outsiders.
There are many ways to start a rumor, but it is important to know your goal before you begin. It may be to humiliate someone, break up a relationship, or bring down a government. Unless you have the right motives, it is not ethical to start a rumor that could hurt someone. It is also important to decide how you will discredit your rumor. If it can be easily disproven, it will die quickly. For example, if you say that your target was seen eating dog food, it will be hard to believe if they are later seen with both arms intact. It is also best to only involve accomplices that you trust and can keep a secret. This way, if your rumor is revealed, you won’t get caught. It’s also best to only use a few accomplices because more than that can be confusing and can lead to a lot of false stories being circulated.