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Modelling rumors: the no plane Pentagon French hoax case

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  • Galam, Serge
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    Abstract

    The recent astonishing wide adhesion of French people to the rumor claiming ‘No plane did crash on the Pentagon on September 11’, is given a generic explanation in terms of a model of minority opinion spreading. Using a majority rule reaction–diffusion dynamics, a rumor is shown to invade for sure a social group provided it fulfills simultaneously two criteria. First it must initiate with a support beyond some critical threshold which however, turns out to be always very low. Then it has to be consistent with some larger collective social paradigm of the group. Otherwise it just dies out. Both conditions were satisfied in the French case with the associated book sold at more than 200 000 copies in just a few days. The rumor was stopped by the firm stand of most newspaper editors stating it is nonsense. Such an incredible social dynamics is shown to result naturally from an open and free public debate among friends and colleagues. Each one searching for the truth sincerely on a free will basis and without individual biases. The polarization process appears also to be very quick in agreement with reality. It is a very strong anti-democratic reversal of opinion although made quite democratically. The model may apply to a large range of rumors.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications.

    Volume (Year): 320 (2003)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 571-580

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:phsmap:v:320:y:2003:i:c:p:571-580

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    Web page: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/physica-a-statistical-mechpplications/

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    Keywords: Rumors; Minority spreading; Reaction-diffusion;

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    Cited by:
    1. Zhao, Laijun & Wang, Qin & Cheng, Jingjing & Zhang, Ding & Ma, Ting & Chen, Yucheng & Wang, Jiajia, 2012. "The impact of authorities’ media and rumor dissemination on the evolution of emergency," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 391(15), pages 3978-3987.
    2. Zhao, Laijun & Wang, Jiajia & Chen, Yucheng & Wang, Qin & Cheng, Jingjing & Cui, Hongxin, 2012. "SIHR rumor spreading model in social networks," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 391(7), pages 2444-2453.
    3. Bischi, Gian-Italo & Merlone, Ugo, 2010. "Binary choices in small and large groups: A unified model," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 389(4), pages 843-853.
    4. Ellero, Andrea & Fasano, Giovanni & Sorato, Annamaria, 2009. "A modified Galam’s model for word-of-mouth information exchange," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 388(18), pages 3901-3910.
    5. Nekovee, M. & Moreno, Y. & Bianconi, G. & Marsili, M., 2007. "Theory of rumour spreading in complex social networks," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 374(1), pages 457-470.
    6. Merlone, U. & Radi, D., 2014. "Reaching consensus on rumors," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 406(C), pages 260-271.
    7. Fang Wu & Bernardo A. Huberman, 2004. "Social Structure and Opinion Formation," Computational Economics 0407002, EconWPA.
    8. Zhao, Laijun & Cui, Hongxin & Qiu, Xiaoyan & Wang, Xiaoli & Wang, Jiajia, 2013. "SIR rumor spreading model in the new media age," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 392(4), pages 995-1003.
    9. Zhao, Laijun & Wang, Qin & Cheng, Jingjing & Chen, Yucheng & Wang, Jiajia & Huang, Wei, 2011. "Rumor spreading model with consideration of forgetting mechanism: A case of online blogging LiveJournal," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 390(13), pages 2619-2625.
    10. C.R. Martins, André, 2014. "Discrete opinion models as a limit case of the CODA model," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 395(C), pages 352-357.
    11. Zhao, Laijun & Qiu, Xiaoyan & Wang, Xiaoli & Wang, Jiajia, 2013. "Rumor spreading model considering forgetting and remembering mechanisms in inhomogeneous networks," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 392(4), pages 987-994.
    12. Andrea Ellero & Annamaria Sorato & Giovanni Fasano, 2011. "A new model for estimating the probability of information spreading with opinion leaders," Working Papers 13, Department of Management, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia.
    13. Han, Shuo & Zhuang, Fuzhen & He, Qing & Shi, Zhongzhi & Ao, Xiang, 2014. "Energy model for rumor propagation on social networks," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 394(C), pages 99-109.
    14. Gardini, Laura & Merlone, Ugo & Tramontana, Fabio, 2011. "Inertia in binary choices: Continuity breaking and big-bang bifurcation points," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 153-167.

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