From rumors to facts, and facts to rumors: The role of certainty decay in consumer communications

David Dubois*, Derek D. Rucker, Zakary L. Tormala

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


How does a rumor come to be believed as a fact as it spreads across a chain of consumers? This research proposes that because consumers' certainty about their beliefs (e.g., attitudes, opinions) is less salient than the beliefs themselves, certainty information is more susceptible to being lost in communication. Consistent with this idea, the current studies reveal that though consumers transmit their core beliefs when they communicate with one another, they often fail to transmit their certainty or uncertainty about those beliefs. Thus, a belief originally associated with high uncertainty (certainty) tends to lose this uncertainty (certainty) across communications. The authors demonstrate that increasing the salience of consumers' uncertainty/certainty when communicating or receiving information can improve uncertainty/certainty communication, and they investigate the consequences for rumor management and word-of-mouth communications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1020-1032
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Certainty
  • Information transmission
  • Metacognition
  • Rumor
  • Word-of-mouth communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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