Rumor and Its Implications for Communication and Management


Rumor is a highly contagious form of information that spreads quickly over social networks. Rumors may be true or false, but they can cause real panic and social unrest. It is important to understand the role of rumors in society and how they spread. The article provides a summary of key concepts and research findings on rumor, including an analysis of the factors that affect the spread of rumors. It also discusses the implications of rumor for communication and management in organizational settings.

A rumor is a piece of gossip that is passed on to others and becomes widely disseminated, typically because it is believed to be true or it is feared to be true by those hearing the rumor. In contrast to ordinary gossip, a rumor is usually about some type of serious issue, such as an impending natural disaster or a workplace conflict. It is also often a fabricated story or report that is intended to influence people’s perceptions of reality or to influence public policy.

It is generally assumed that a rumor will be false in some degree, and it will be spread with some probability (g) based on the credibility of the rumor, its relevance to people’s lives (a), and the number of people who already know about the rumor. Moreover, the rumor will be more credible if it is transmitted serially with interaction between teller and listener.

The definition of a rumor is somewhat controversial, as some researchers differentiate it from “gossip” by its function and content. While gossip serves the purpose of forming social networks and group solidarity, a rumor is primarily an attempt to make sense of an ambiguous situation or to help people adapt to perceived or actual threats.

In general, rumors are produced and spread for the following three broad psychological motivations: (1) fact-finding, (2) relationship-enhancement, and (3) self-enhancement. Despite these widespread psychological motivations, the accuracy of a rumor is affected by a wide variety of cognitive, situational, and group-level factors.

When people receive a rumor, they tend to take action or at least consider the implications of the rumor, even if they have not confirmed it as truthful. This is because a rumor offers them a psychological sense of control over the threat, such as when a rumor warns them that a tsunami could occur or that wearing a mask could protect them from virus transmission.

During an outbreak of a dangerous disease, such as COVID-19, the government should set up authoritative and accurate information disclosure systems. It should also report confirmed cases and treatment conditions in a timely manner, as well as explain relevant prevention or control policies and countermeasures. In addition, it should actively collaborate with credible news media and online platforms to encourage them to forward authoritative rumor-debunking information. In this way, the government can prevent the spread of rumors and avoid social panic and economic losses.