Purpose: Dealing with online rumors or fake information on social media is growing in importance. Most academic research on online rumors has approached the issue from a quantitative modeling perspective. Less attention has been paid to the psychological mechanisms accounting for online rumor transmission behavior on the individual level. Drawing from the theory of stimulus–organism–response, this study aims to explore the nature of online rumors and investigate how the informational characteristics of online rumors are processed through the mediation of psychological variables to promote online rumor forwarding. Design/methodology/approach: An experimental approach to this issue was taken; the researchers investigated how the informational characteristics of online rumors and the psychological mediators promote online rumor transmission. Findings: Four information characteristics (sense-making, funniness, dreadfulness and personal relevance) and three psychological motivators (fact-finding, relationship enhancement and self-enhancement) promote online rumor-forwarding behavior. Originality/value: Because any online rumor transmitted on social media can go viral, companies may eventually encounter social media-driven crises. Thus, understanding what drives rumor-forwarding behavior can help marketers mitigate and counter online rumors.
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