As rumors travel from person to person, information is lost during the transmissions. Discussion, however, increases retention of the original account and organizes later transmissions. This organization then decreases the attentional load of the listeners, thus allowing them to attend to and retain a more complex message. Further, the information that is lost tends to be explanatory statements (instead of event statements). Such explanatory statements make ratings of a negative event more neutral, but are lost when the listener's attentional load is increased, and the central (event-based) message is more likely to be retained. With this in mind, the effects of discussion among eyewitnesses and subsequent listeners (non-eyewitnesses) were examined. Participants were exposed to the negative events of an actor's drunken night mitigated by such things as he did not know he was drunk. Half the participants discussed, the other half did not. All participants made audio recordings of their versions of the story and rated the actor. A second-generation then got those recordings and followed the same procedure. Discussion increased accuracy of individual reports (except in the second-generation following first-generation discussion). Nevertheless, this advantage was dampened by looking at the full amount of information transmitted by a pair (their pooled accuracy) which showed no difference between discussers and non-discussers. This reduces validity of arguments both for and against eyewitnesses discussing with each other; it does not seem to affect the amount of information available to, or used by, the jury. Ordering of subsequent transmissions was always highly similar to the original and accounted for a significant portion of the central-peripheral bias.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Rumor; Discussion; Information behavior
Department, Program, or Center
Department of Psychology (CLA)
Brougher, Samuel, "The Effect of cross-chain discussion by eyewitnesses and non-eyewitnesses on rumor accuracy" (2010). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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