Social Question

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Why do people seem to believe every outrageous thing they hear online?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (23285 points ) October 12th, 2011

People have been forwarding emails for years and years, social networking has been popular for a long time now… and the same old nonsense has been passed around since it all started.

How is it that people haven’t learned the lesson, yet? Why do so many people automatically believe the latest forward?

Please don’t say “because people are stupid.” I have seen doctors, teachers, people that I know are generally intelligent and rational… who pass these things on.

What is it about internet rumors that make us inclined to believe them, even when they are pretty far out there?

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15 Answers

Scooby's avatar

Everyone likes a good gossip I guess? I don’t subscribe to that myself :-/

Blackberry's avatar

People don’t like to research. I’m guilty of it, too. It doesn’t help if the source is your friend, because you think, “This came from so-and-so, and I trust them, so they must be serious about it” or something like that.

It sounds lazy, but taking the time to research certain things just reminds me of doing a college assignment that I don’t want to do lol. I have to really care about it to do deep research.

tedd's avatar

The same reason a lot of people believe every outrageous thing they hear on tv or the radio.

They’re idiots.

wundayatta's avatar

Most of the stuff I get has to do with warnings about non-existent viruses and whatnot. The most recent one urged me register my cell phone on a no-call list by calling a phone number by the end of August.

I never paid attention to that, but recently I looked it up and discovered that there is no deadline for getting on the no call list and further, you can’t get your cell phone listed unless you opt in. In addition, marketing firms can not get bulk numbers off the cell phone list. They have to call 411 and ask for names individually. So even if you join the 411 list, it is highly unlikely you will see an increase in the number of sales calls you get.

I think people believe these things because they seem like other people they trust are trying to be helpful. Most people don’t want to research them and don’t know where to go to get good information, anyway.

I’m a researcher and I also have a good shit detector. I recognize when things are likely to be scams or whatever, and I look them up. I don’t think most people can be bothered. So they pass them on.

linguaphile's avatar

I think it’s because many, many people believe that if many other people believe it, if their friends believe it, and if it comes from a perceived authority, it must be true. It’s an automatic reaction, one that skips most of the brain cells and goes straight to the faulty conclusion. They also probably don’t know about logical fallacies enough to pay attention to what they’re being hoodwinked by.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@tedd “they’re idiots” is not very different from “people are stupid.”

SpatzieLover's avatar

What is it about internet rumors that make us inclined to believe them, even when they are pretty far out there?
Usually it’s because whatever it is they are passing along supports an opinion they hold dear.

YARNLADY's avatar

Many people aren’t able to discern the difference between valid and not valid.

HungryGuy's avatar

Because new people are coming online every day….

koanhead's avatar

I don’t think that people are born with a natural “bullshit detector”- that has to be trained into them in order for them to learn to distrust strangers.
Also, people using a new medium tend for some reason to treat other users of the medium as if they knew them. I’m not sure why this is. It’s particularly problematic with the Internet since it’s so easy to “spoof” another Internet user’s identity in other places (how many “koanheads” do you suppose there are out there?) even by accident.

poisonedantidote's avatar

This is a little bit off topic, but… Hitler is alive and well living in Peru, copy and paste this message to 5 other questions before a week from first reading this or you will die.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

I wish I knew… I have been asking myself that for 3 years now

*But I think it does have a little bit to do with stupidity… Sorry.

Or boredom, they look the same sometimes.

filmfann's avatar

The ones that drive me nuts are the ones that go something like:

“I love Andy Rooney! Here is something he said last week on 60 Minutes!
” ‘I hate mexicans! They just stand around stinking up all the convenience stores, trying to get me to pay them to work in my yard…’ ”

Now, obviously America’s favorite commentator didn’t say that, but it struck a chord with someone, and now they are passing it off, and really damaging AR’s name, because they think he either said it, or could have said it. Sometimes the attribution is to George Carlin.
Another one would be stupid things said by Obama or Biden, like Biden saying we need to retrain all the cattle guards Obama is about to lay off, not realizing what a cattle guard is. That story was around when Truman was president.
These days it is easier to get to the truth, since we have youtube and google and the constant recording of speeches and interactions.

koanhead's avatar

@filmfann GA for “laying off cattle guards”!

ucme's avatar

Or take a humorous, throw away remark personally & become offended on a level that’s frankly disturbing & yet, at the same time, hilarious? Yeah, that is weird.

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