Abstract and excerpt:
Social transmission is everywhere. Friends talk about restaurants, policy wonks rant about legislation, analysts trade stock tips, neighbors gossip, and teens chitchat. Further, such interpersonal communication affects everything from decision making and well-being (Asch, 1956; Mehl, Vazire, Holleran, & Clark, 2010) to the spread of ideas, the persistence of stereotypes, and the diffusion of culture (Heath, 1996; Heath, Bell, & Sternberg, 2001; Kashima, 2008; Schaller, Conway, & Tanchuk, 2002; Schaller & Crandall, 2004). But although it is clear that social transmission is both frequent and important, what drives people to share, and why are some stories and information shared more than others?
Traditionally, researchers have argued that rumors spread in the “3 Cs”—times of conflict, crisis, and catastrophe (e.g., wars or natural disasters; Koenig, 1985)―and the major explanation for this phenomenon has been generalized anxiety (i.e.,