Rumor is the dissemination of information that is unproven or unverified. People are often influenced by rumors, and they can have major consequences on their lives. People may even take action based on a rumor before the truth is established. For example, when a photo on social media claimed to show an Islamic militant seeking refuge in Europe, many European officials proposed stopping refugees from entering their country. The truth emerged later, but the damage was done.
People are motivated to discuss rumors for three broad psychological functions: fact-finding, relationship-enhancement and self-enhancement. People seek to understand their environment and predict what will happen in the future, which leads to speculation. Moreover, fear and anxiety promote rumor discussion as people try to thwart a negative event or feel better about it by reassuring themselves. In addition, rumors serve to help people manage threats to their psychological sense of self by derogating groups with whom they are not associated.
In order to understand why rumors spread, researchers studied archived discussions on the internet and other computer networks such as BITnet. They analyzed each rumor discussion to determine its coding. Each rumor was coded as one of the following: prudent, apprehensive, authenticating, interrogatory, providing information, belief, disbelief and sense-making.
Among the most important factors that affect the transmission of a rumor is the degree to which it is believed and the speed at which it is spread. Those who believe the rumor more strongly are more likely to share it with others. This is because the more they believe in the rumor, the more they want to convince others to do the same.
Another factor is how convincing the rumor is. To make the rumor more believable, it is a good idea to include a few details that are interesting. It is also a good idea to target the people who are very curious. For example, if you want to start a rumor about how you were attacked by a bear with a samurai sword, it is best to tell a group of big mouths who will pass the rumor along quickly.
Lastly, it is important to note that while punishing people for spreading a rumor can deter them from doing it again in the future, it has no effect on their ability to recognize a rumor. Consequently, it is important to verify the authenticity of a suspected rumor in real time and publicize this information so that people can avoid panic. The COVID-19 epidemic illustrates this point well. Although authorities were quick to punish those who spread the rumor, it was not a sufficient deterrent. As a result, the rumor was spread further and caused more panic. To avoid this, it is important to verify a suspected rumor before taking punishment measures.