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Cultivating the Grapevine: An Analysis of Rumor Principles and Concepts

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Rumors can be a perfect tool to subvert, deceive, or suggest what truth is to a population. However, despite the demonstrated ability of rumors to influence a population, current U.S. military doctrine does not address how to recognize, craft, or effectively counter them. The purpose of this study is to analyze the principles and concepts governing the spread of rumors for their future integration into Psychological Operations forces PSYOP doctrine and training. Specifically, this study draws from a review of current and historical literature on rumor theory to distill a set of principles to guide the successful employment of rumors, as well as a set of principles for defending against the employment of rumors by an adversary. These principles are then tested by the case study analysis of three examples of successful rumor generation, as well as two successful examples and one unsuccessful case of rumor defense. From its investigation, this study proposes two new models to assist the influence practitioner in the employment of and defense against rumors.

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