A rumor is a false story that spreads from person to person through the community. Rumors can be positive or negative, and can have a significant impact on people. In a time where social media is the primary source of information, rumors can be spread fast and have a great effect on individuals and communities. In the case of a tragedy, rumors can be dangerous, especially if they are not confirmed.
Research on rumoring and its effects is vast and multifaceted. Social scientists have identified several underlying conditions that cause rumors to be generated. These include uncertainty and trust in official information, features of the rumor itself (novelty and emotional valence), and system effects such as position in a network.
The modern scholarly definition of a rumor is that it is transmitted from one person to another without being verified by a reliable source. It can be about a person, event, or situation. It is also topical, involving issues of interest to the community. And finally, rumors serve the purpose of expressing and gratifying “the emotional needs of the community”.
Some people are more likely to generate and spread rumors than others. For example, individuals who are more anxious may be more likely to discuss rumors in order to feel a sense of control over their environment. In this case, rumors can be helpful in reducing anxiety, but they can also be detrimental to relationships and the well-being of the individual.
Studies have shown that the strength of a rumor is directly proportional to its significance and ambiguity. This is known as the “basic law of rumor.” The stronger a rumor is, the more it will be passed on and believed. For example, a subject in a lab experiment who heard a rumor about a murder was more likely to believe it if the rumor came from someone with a connection to the investigation, than if it was told by an old busybody who didn’t have any such connections. The rumor was also more credible when it was repeated.
Rumors are more likely to be believed when they come from a close friend or relative. In addition, if a rumor is denied, it is less likely to be believed. In a study that looked at Twitter, researchers found that early tweets that reported on the Japan earthquake were more retweeted than later ones that denied the rumor.
Rumors are a valuable tool for disseminating information in emergency situations when official sources are not available or trustworthy. However, if the information is not true, it can be damaging and lead to a loss of trust. It can also be a hindrance to efforts to strengthen democracy or public health. It can even be used to besmirch the reputation of an individual or group. This is why it is important to always be aware of what is being posted on social media.