Study: E-mails reinforce rumors

March 7, 2011 at 5:00 PM
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COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 7 (UPI) -- The Internet doesn't make people more likely to believe political rumors, but one form of communication -- e-mail -- does tend to do so, a U.S. researcher said.

"I think a lot of people will be surprised to learn that using the Internet doesn't necessarily promote belief in rumors," R. Kelly Garrett, assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, said.

"Many people seem to think that's self-evident,"

Not so, he said.

"The Internet does make it easier to circulate rumors, but going online doesn't make us more gullible."

However, e-mail is a special case, he said, and his study found people much more likely to believe false rumors in e-mails from friends and family, a OSU release reported Monday.

People seem to be wary about rumors they read on Web sites and blogs, Garrett said, and are more likely to check these rumors to see if they are correct.

"The problem is that we are more likely to let our defenses down when we're dealing with our friends, which is why e-mail can have such harmful consequences," he said. "We don't normally question what our friends tell us."

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