Standard Article

Rumor

  1. Nicholas DiFonzo

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0807

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

DiFonzo, N. 2010. Rumor. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Rochester Institute of Technology

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

Abstract

Rumors are information statements in circulation that lack a solid basis of evidence. They typically arise in contexts that are unclear or threatening and are passed along in an attempt to gain clarity or reduce risk (DiFonzo, 2008). Rumors are, first of all, declarative statements that purport to tell us something, and—especially in contradistinction to gossip and urban legends—are perceived as relatively urgent or important. For example, the false rumor “Tropical Fantasy Fruit Punch contains a sterilizer for black men” made a claim about the punch's ingredients that Brooklyn residents once took quite seriously (Freedman, 1991). Rumors are more than private thoughts, attitudes, or stereotypes; they must be communicated or discussed with others. The central feature of rumor statements is that they are unverified or unsubstantiated. A comparison with news is helpful here. News is normally backed up by secure standards of evidence, whereas rumors never are. Labeling a statement as “rumor” does not signify that it is necessarily false but simply doubtful; the statement may in fact be true or false.

Keywords:

  • rumor;
  • gossip;
  • propaganda;
  • communication;
  • collective sense making;
  • blogosphere