Gossip has four basic qualities of rumors

They are information statements. We’re not talking about the opinions that people share. Instead, rumors are meant to be informative.

They are in circulation. In other words, if you have your own personal conspiracy theory that the moon isn’t real, it’s not a rumor if you never tell anyone.

They are unverified. This is key. If I’m at a high school reunion, and I try to spread the news that Jeff and Tina just had a baby, that’s not a rumor if Jeff and Tina posted the baby’s picture to Facebook. Yes, it’s informative and in circulation, but since it’s been definitively verified as true, it’s not technically a rumor.

Finally, rumors are “instrumentally relevant.” They answer questions that people want answered because they feel important or significant. If there’s a rumor that your office is laying people off, that’s instrumentally relevant because that information impacts your life! Some have called rumor spreading a “group sensemaking activity” because they serve to help people understand an ambiguous situation.

Why people Gossip and Spread Rumors:

1. People Spread Rumors  and Gossip When There’s Uncertainty

2. People Spread Rumors When They Feel Anxiety

3. People Spread Rumors When the Information is Important

4. People Spread Rumors When They Believe the Information

5. People Spread Rumors When it Helps Their Social Status