Nicholas DiFonzo is one of the world's leading experts on gossip. Well, at a meta-level. The Rochester Institute of Technology psychologist studies how gossip and rumors spread and the difference between the two. According to his bio, he's also been an expert witness in lawsuits surrounding the (false) rumors that Procter & Gamble was somehow involved in satanism. In a new academic book, titled Rumor Psychology, Difonzo and management professor Prashant Borida, present their findings on rumor propagation, the psychology of why people believe them, and how to manage the rumor mill in a company setting. According to their research, "most workplace rumors are 95 percent accurate." From an RIT press release:
“A rumor is what you do when you try to figure out the truth with other people,” DiFonzo says. “It’s collective sense making. The classic example is ‘I heard that…’”Link to press release, Link to buy the book
Gossip, on the other hand, is sharing information with an agenda, he says. It could be for entertainment or to bond with another person or to reinforce a social norm. Gossip, which may be true, tends to have an edge.
“Gossip is more to do with social networks,” DiFonzo says. “A strong motivation we have as humans is to connect with a group.”
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.