Date Presented

Spring 4-1-2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Virginia Cylke

Second Advisor

Cheryl Jorgensen-Earp

Third Advisor

Edward DeClair

Abstract

This study examines differences between the concepts gossip and rumor. More specifically, the different levels of emotional reaction to gossip and rumor in female college students are addressed. The three most widely used forms of gossip and rumor relate to popularity, appearance, and promiscuity. It was hypothesized that women were unclear of the theoretical differences between gossip and rumor. However, even without knowledge of this theoretical distinction, gossip would produce a more negative emotional reaction than rumor. It was predicted that gossip or rumor concerning promiscuity would cause a more negative emotional reaction than gossip or rumor about popularity or appearance. Questionnaires were created which included vignettes that manipulated gossip, rumor, and the three main forms of each. Female college students at a small, private, liberal arts, undergraduate institution, were asked to rate their emotional responses to the vignettes on a series of five-point Likert Scale. Altogether, the results did not support the predicted hypotheses. The data suggest that women do recognize a difference between gossip and rumor. More specifically rumor causes a significant negative emotional reaction in regard to hurt, devastation, embarrassment, and anger than gossip. Gossip and rumor about popularity was also significantly more hurtful, devastating, and embarrassing than gossip and rumor about promiscuity or appearance. Although, promiscuity was found to cause more anger than popularity or appearance. The implications of the conflicting results for theory and future research are discussed.

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