Why do e-mails give wings to rumours?

Last Updated 08 March 2011, 06:26 IST

"I think a lot of people will be surprised to learn that using the Internet doesn't necessarily promote belief in rumours," study author R. Kelly Garrett said. 

"Many people seem to think that's self-evident," added Garrett, assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, reports the journal Human Communication Research.

However, e-mail is a special case. People are much more likely to believe false rumours that they receive in e-mails from friends and family, according to an Ohio statement.

People seem to be wary about rumours they read on websites and blogs, Garrett said. They are more likely to check these rumours to see if they are correct.

"The problem is that we are more likely to let our defences down when we're dealing with our friends, which is why an e-mail can have such harmful consequences. We don't normally question what our friends tell us," he said.

The study involved a phone survey of 600 Americans in November 2008, immediately after the presidential election. 

Results showed that use of the Internet and online sources of political information did indeed lead people to encounter more rumours about the candidates. 

The more political e-mails that participants received from friends and family during the 2008 election, the more rumours they were likely to believe. And the more rumours they believed, the more political e-mails they sent.

(Published 08 March 2011, 06:26 IST)

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