A conversational approach is developed to explain the ubiquitous presence of rumors, urban legends, and gossip as arising from their conversational properties rather than from side effects of cognitive processing or "effort after meaning." It is suggested that the primary function of telling rumors, gossip, and urban legends is not to impart information to the listener or alleviate listener anxiety about the topic but to entertain or keep the listener's attention, thereby enhancing social relationships. In this way, the traditional views of such stories are turned on their head, and an implication is that there is no essential feature of such stories just a range of conversational properties. The model also predicts hybrid forms that cannot be placed into one of the commonly named forms of talk. Some examples of these are given. The wider ramifications for changing "cognitive processing" effects into properties of social relationships are also drawn out.
Guerin, Bernard and Miyazaki, Yoshihiko
"Analyzing Rumors, Gossip, and Urban Legends Through Their Conversational Properties,"
The Psychological Record: Vol. 56
, Article 2.
Available at: http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/tpr/vol56/iss1/2