Rumor Rest Stops on the Information Highway Transmission Patterns in a Computer-Mediated Rumor Chain


  • This research was funded in part by the Vanderveer Endowment Fund. We would like to thank Anthony Verdi, James Arbuckle, Marianne Jaeger, Mark Foss, Nicholas DiFonzo, Susan Wheelan, and Tara Townsend for their assistance. We are also grateful to Cindy Gallois and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this article. This article was presented by the first author at the 69th annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Boston, Massachusetts.

Prashant Bordia, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia; e-mail:


Classic simulation studies of rumor transmission chains often have been characterized as lacking mundane realism. The present study spawned new insights on the basis of an analysis of the structure and composition of a naturalistic rumor chain that surfaced on the information highway. Content analyses of the individual messages during a 6-day period revealed distinctive patterns in both content and level of individual participation. In general, the results were consistent with the idea of rumor mongering as a collective, problem-solving interaction that is sustained by a combination of anxiety, uncertainty, and credulity. The study extends the literature on temporal patterns in group computer-mediated communication (CMC) by showing that in a naturalistic setting, group development patterns of a CMC group were similar to those reported in the face-to-face (FtF) group literature.