The science of rumors

Massimo Crescimbene, Federica La Longa, Tiziana Lanza

Abstract


This study takes a soft scientific cut to talks about rumors, hoaxes and urban legends. Social psychology, more elegantly, uses the latin word rumor (rumour in British English), which means sound, voice, or gossip. In social, economical, political, cultural and scientific communication, rumors indicate news that is presumed true, that circulates without being confirmed or made evident. The scientific history of rumors is briefly described starting from the period of ancient Rome, throughout the Second World War and the Internet era, up to today. We will try to answer some questions that can be useful to scientists today. What are rumors? How are they born? How do they spread? By which laws are they regulated? How do we need to fight them? A final question regards the collocation of rumors into modern science. Science today is divided into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ science (the latter of which generally lacks a basic mathematical structure); these terms, respectively, indicate the natural sciences, which investigate Nature, and the social/human sciences, which investigate man in all his facets. Maybe rumors can be thought of as a bridge suspended between two banks: those of ‘scientific truth’ and ‘human truth’.


Keywords


Rumor; Communication; Social psychology; Urban legends

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References


DOI: https://doi.org/10.4401/ag-5538
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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X