Rumors may be the oldest medium of mass communication of
information or ideas. Even before there were newspapers, radio, or
television, rumors communicated by word-of-mouth made and shattered
reputations, and set off riots and wars. Yet contrary to
predictions, rumors continue to thrive, in spite of and parallel to
What accounts for the puzzling persistence and continuing
significance of this little-studied social phenomenon? Jean-Noel
Kapferer examines the theory and practice of rumors, focusing on
specific areas such as entertainment, criminal behavior, business
and finance, and politics. He describes the kinds of conditions
that give birth to rumors, why we believe them, and the hidden
messages they convey. Kapferer points out that rumors frequently
serve useful social purposes and present rich examples. He
speculates about how rumors can be controlled, changed, and
Drawing upon contributions of disciplines ranging from
psychology to history, and integrating the insights of Europeans
with the latest work of American researchers, this is the most
comprehensive examination of rumors, gossip, and urban legends yet
published. Translated into nine languages, this edition was updated
with advances in theory and research since the book's original
French publication in 1987. Its brisk, accessible style makes the
book of interest to psychologists, economists, political
scientists, sociologists, and folklore analysts, as well as the
general reader who is curious about the origins of this fascinating
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