A rumor is “a story that is neither known nor believed by those who are parties to it.” A truth, on the other hand, is “an account of facts having no reference to any reality, which is usually believed by many people.” Rumors are a form of communication. If you are having a conversation in a restaurant, a friend might overhear you and start talking about something that may not even exist.
In the age of the internet, information is being spread faster than the speed of light. This makes it very difficult to determine who started the rumour in the first place. Websites like Wikipedia have started a long list of popularly known rumours. So how do we know if a rumour is true? We can’t – and don’t.
We also have to ask ourselves how truthful is the source of a particular rumour. This is a whole other topic in itself, but suffice to say that one way of determining if a rumour is true or not is by using the concept of propaganda. Propaganda has been used since the beginning of communication. When gossip first started it was a form of communication studies. Students would circulate false information about classmates so that they could gossip about them.
Rumours also had another purpose. Governments put rumours into circulation as a way to control the population. Certain groups would be identified as being dangerous to society. People were asked to refrain from assisting these groups by telling the rumour tales. It was hoped that the population would prevent its members from participating in activities which helped these groups.
Today we have social cognitive processes in place to determine the veracity of gossip. When I was doing research for my book, The Psychology of Rumours, one of the topics that came up time again was the process by which people determine the truth of rumours. Specifically, I was interested in understanding why people would use certain types of social cognition processes when checking up on the truth of rumours.
In this article I will explore the use of political communication studies to understand why people use different types of social cognition processes when checking the truth of rumours. Basically, this was a social psychology experiment that focused on the way that we would check the truth of a rumour. Specifically, we wanted to know if people would use specific types of social cognition processes when assessing the truth of a rumour. Essentially, we wanted to see if people would use the same strategies when making an assessment as we do when making a judgement about something. Studying the study of political propaganda further revealed that rumour usually gets around in the end, especially if there are enough people with strong opinions supporting it.