Rumor trumps Rationality

November 02, 2007

Rumor trumps Rationality

urban-legend-rumor.jpgSome research has shown that people believe gossip, rumor and innuendo even if they are confronted with hard evidence refuting it.  Research conducted at the Max Planck Institute described in The New York Times and later mentioned in The Week (great to read) told about researchers who set up a situation where players who were playing a philantrophy game gave other players money based on a recipient’s rumored reputation. When the players were told that a recipient was generous and friendly to other players, they were much more likely to give money to that person. In contrast, when they were told that the recipient was greedy and unfriendly, players were less likely to give that person money. BUT this pattern remained the same even when people were shown written documents saying that the greedy person was actually quite generous and the generous person was actually Scrooge-like. Gossip and reputation-ruining information is obviously very sticky and trumps rational data.  A lesson to be learned. Watch your reputation since bad news is hard to erase, regardless of how much support you have saying you are being unfairly treated.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

  • @Stephen
    Posted at 00:29h, 10 November Reply

    Wow, there is some terrific stuff here. What a great showcase of research and commentary. I would love to get into something like this full time! This site is going on my blogroll, thanks.

  • Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross
    Posted at 17:29h, 22 November Reply

    thanks so much. glad you like it. best, lgr

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