Summary

Nicholas DiFonzo is a professor of psychology at Rochester Institute of Technology.


A deeply revealing look at why we spread rumors, why we believe them, and how they affect our behavior.

During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rumors were flying about stranded residents shooting rescue workers. In New York City, the Brooklyn Bottling Group’s business was devastated by false rumors that its soda contained sterilizers.

Psychologist Nicholas DiFonzo has studied hearsay for more than fifteen years, and in this book he shows that the process that gave rise to these troubling rumors is fundamentally the same as a tete-a`-tete around the company watercooler.

Why are rumors a ubiquitous aspect of the human experience— whether they’re about plots to wipe out the urban poor through sterilizers or a company’s plan to downsize? Armed with entertaining examples from all spheres of life, DiFonzo asserts that rumors are a window into both individual and group psychology.

DiFonzo ultimately argues that rumors stem from our deeply rooted motivation to make sense of the world. As social beings, when confronted with an ambiguous or threatening situation, our response is to talk to one another—whether at the dinner table, on the Web, or around the watercooler.