A Rumor is often viewed as "an unverified account or explanation of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern". However, a review of the research on rumor conducted by Pendleton in 1998 found that research across sociology, psychology, and communication studies had widely varying definitions of rumor. Thus, rumor is a concept that lacks a particular definition in the social sciences. But most theories agree that rumor involves some kind of a statement whose veracity is not quickly or ever confirmed. In addition, some scholars have identified rumor as a subset of propoaganda, the latter another notoriously difficult concept to define. A pioneer of propaganda studies, Harold Lasswell defined propaganda in 1927 as referring "solely to the control of opinion by significant symbols, or, to speak more concretely and less accurately, by stories, rumors, reports, pictures, and other forms of social communication" (1927). Rumors are also often discussed with regard to "misinformation" and "disinformation" (the former often seen as simply false and the latter seen as deliberately false, though usually from a government source given to the media or a foreign government). Rumors thus have often been viewed as particular forms of other communication concepts.
Related Article: "Conspiracy Theories and the Spread of Rumors"
A Rumor to be Effective Requires Three Main Ingredients:
- To be juicy and newsy to get attention
- To be difficult to confirm it’s veracity
- To travel fast mouth to ear to mouth
As part of a case study at the University Anahuac in Mexico City, where I attended the School of Mass Communications as an undergraduate in the 1970's , we had to create a "Rumor" and measure its’ effectiveness while also analyzing the impact rumors may have in our community and how fast they spread as truth. After long deliberations, our team decided to start a "juicy rumor":
The Rumor Included the Three Major Objectives we had Studied:
- Make the news: and that it did! The story was aired by all major Nightly News on television that evening.
- Difficult to confirm its veracity: it spread like wild fire without confirming the source. Everyone in the community heard about it but didn’t know who said it!
- Travel Fast: It was a “Mouth Opener” and we reached a “risk point”. Everyone wanted to know who the victim was and people started speculating about: who the girl was; her family and background; who was responsible for the rape? was she guilty for encouraging the guy? All sorts of rumors and gossip started flowing. The story reached a point of ‘dangerously’ becoming a major source of gossip. Possibly damaging the school’s reputation and attracting the interest of Paparazzi's from all over.
- The next morning we had to issue an official notice from school to all news media that the story was false. The new information did not get as much and fast coverage as the original rumor we spread.
We don’t recommend starting rumors, so: Don’t Do It. But, if you have a story to share with COFL.CO contact us. Please send your stories at:
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