Rumor is information that is spread and circulated among a group of people. It is often untrue or at least inaccurate. It may be about a personal matter or a public issue. Its accuracy depends on many factors. Rumors often prey on anxiety and fear. They often involve a threat to the safety of people or property. For example, during World War II rumors about bombing raids and other dangers caused great panic.
In addition to their accuracy, rumor also depends on the motivations of people who spread them. For example, a person might spread a rumor about their coworker because they want to embarrass them or make them look bad. Other motives include relationship-enhancement (telling a rumor about a coworker is seen as a way to improve their standing in the workplace) and self-enhancement (telling rumors about oneself is viewed as a way to enhance one’s reputation).
People also differ in their ability to ferret out the truthfulness of a rumor. Some rumor systems (such as organizational grapevines) tend to be accurate, while others (like those created around natural disasters) are often false. In addition, the speed at which a rumor is transmitted influences its accuracy. It takes longer to check out a slow-spreading rumor than a fast-spreading rumor.
A rumor is often perceived as true because it meets several criteria: It is socially acceptable. It is about a topical subject that appeals to the emotions of a large number of people. It is also believable and has a high rate of spread.
The three characteristics of a rumor that determine how widely it is spread are arousal, ambiguity and importance. Arousal refers to how much a rumor excites people or causes them to be anxious. Ambiguity refers to how unclear or confusing the rumor is. Finally, the rumor’s importance refers to how relevant it is to a person’s life. If a rumor is not important to most people, it will not be spread.
Rumors often have a strong element of ambiguity. This is because they are usually invented by people who have limited knowledge about a situation or a subject. For example, the rumors about President Bush’s health in 2003 that made the news were likely based on speculation and a lack of factual information.
The rumors that are most effective are those that are based on arousal and ambiguity. These rumors are often about celebrities and other people that have a lot of interest in the target. These rumors are not only believed but also spread quickly because they arouse people and they can’t be easily disproven. If you are thinking about starting a rumor, try to figure out what your goal is. You may want to humiliate someone, break up a couple or even take down a government. Just remember that it is not good to deceive people that trust you. You should only start a rumor if you can live with the consequences. Also, you should always leave evidence behind to show that the rumor is not true.