Rumor is an unverified account or explanation of events that circulates from person to person. It usually involves information that pertains to a public issue and is generally believed to be false. It is also considered to be a form of propaganda. Rumors have a variety of effects, from changing the public’s perception of a person to changing society as a whole. Rumors can be spread deliberately and with great speed by individuals with a political agenda. They may be a tool to undermine a rival or simply used for social self-enhancement.
The concept of rumor is difficult to define. Researchers from different disciplines have varying definitions, such as sociology, psychology, and communication studies. However, most scholars agree that rumor includes some kind of statement whose veracity is not quickly or easily confirmed. It is often contrasted with gossip, which typically involves private and trivial matters. Rumor is sometimes also distinguished from spin, which involves a deliberate effort to discredit a person or group.
There are a number of components that affect the probability of a rumor being spread and the accuracy of the rumor itself. These include anxiety (both personality and situational), ambiguity, and information importance. Anxiety can make people more likely to create rumors, especially if they have a tendency to be overly concerned with insignificant events. In addition, an anxious person may be less likely to believe information that contradicts their preconceived notions.
A rumor is more likely to be spread when it has an air of authenticity and is related to something that is important to the individual who is sharing the rumor. For example, a rumor about a company’s plans to cut jobs is more likely to be passed on than a rumor about the death of a relative. Ambiguity can also lead to a rumor being spread because it leaves the listener wondering whether or not the information is true.
The ability to quickly spread a rumor over large networks is one of the reasons why it is so popular in electronic mediated societies. The Internet, for instance, allows for the rapid spreading of a rumor by anyone with access to it. While some rumors are harmless, others can cause panic and even result in physical harm. For example, a rumor that there was a nuclear leak from the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011 caused people to buy salt in an attempt to protect themselves. This resulted in shortages and rationing in some areas. In addition, the Internet has fueled a number of hoaxes and fake news stories. Many of these are designed to manipulate the news media and public opinion, such as a fake video that appeared to show a U.S. soldier shooting a wounded Iraqi. The Internet has also enabled the dissemination of political rumor, such as claims that John Kerry is French or that Obama had an illegitimate black child. The partisan nature of these rumors and the speed with which they are spread contribute to their effectiveness.