What is Rumor?


Rumor is a socially transmitted story about people and things that does not have a basis in fact. It is often malicious, and may lead to the destruction of reputation or the spread of disease. It is also known as gossip, slander, chatter, hearsay, or false news. It is also referred to as propaganda and misinformation, although the latter terms are probably more accurate for concerted efforts to manipulate the masses. Rumors can be useful, but they are usually not true, and sometimes can even be harmful.

Rumors can be spread through word of mouth, through newspaper articles, through radio or television, or over the Internet. They can be about a local incident or a national event. They can be positive, negative, or indifferent to the person being discussed. They can be told for a variety of reasons, such as to satisfy an emotional need or to obtain information about the subject of the rumor. They can also be used as a form of manipulation to gain political power or to advance a particular agenda.

The word rumor has many definitions, but the most common is an unsubstantiated story that is passed from person to person in a chain. One of the first social scientists to study rumors was the German Wilhelm Stern in 1902. He studied a group that passed a story from ear to ear without repeating it or explaining it. He found that by the time it reached the last member of the chain it was shortened and changed. Stern’s research is the foundation for modern scholarly work on rumors.

A number of factors influence rumor accuracy. Cognitive mechanisms, such as the narrowing of attention, memory limits, and perceptual biases, tend to reduce rumor accuracy. Motivational mechanisms, such as fact-finding or relationship-enhancement, also affect rumor accuracy. In addition, social norms and epistemic beliefs play a role in rumor accuracy. For example, soldiers in a World War II field study could check on the truth of a rumor by asking superior officers; they tended to be more accurate than those who did not.

Whether a rumor is accurate or not, it is often difficult to dispel it. If the rumor is about a personal issue, it is often hard to refute because there are usually emotions involved. It is also difficult to tell the truth about someone who does not want to hear it. For these reasons, a person is more likely to believe a rumor than to question its accuracy.

Rumors can have many causes, such as a jealous ex-boyfriend or two former friends that decided to end their friendship on bad terms. However, a good rumor needs a few key ingredients to make it go viral. It must have believability, a negative or positive feeling toward the person who started it, and enough change throughout the chain to make it interesting. If these conditions are met, it will quickly spread to the friends of the person who started it.