Emotions in online rumor diffusion
University of Giessen, Licher Str. 62, 35394, Giessen, Germany
2 LMU Munich, Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1, 80539, Munich, Germany
3 ETH Zurich, Weinbergstr. 56/58, 8092, Zurich, Switzerland
Accepted: 20 September 2021
Published online: 18 October 2021
Emotions are regarded as a dominant driver of human behavior, and yet their role in online rumor diffusion is largely unexplored. In this study, we empirically study the extent to which emotions explain the diffusion of online rumors. We analyze a large-scale sample of 107,014 online rumors from Twitter, as well as their cascades. For each rumor, the embedded emotions were measured based on eight so-called basic emotions from Plutchik’s wheel of emotions (i.e., anticipation–surprise, anger–fear, trust–disgust, joy–sadness). We then estimated using a generalized linear regression model how emotions are associated with the spread of online rumors in terms of (1) cascade size, (2) cascade lifetime, and (3) structural virality. Our results suggest that rumors conveying anticipation, anger, and trust generate more reshares, spread over longer time horizons, and become more viral. In contrast, a smaller size, lifetime, and virality is found for surprise, fear, and disgust. We further study how the presence of 24 dyadic emotional interactions (i.e., feelings composed of two emotions) is associated with diffusion dynamics. Here, we find that rumors cascades with high degrees of aggressiveness are larger in size, longer-lived, and more viral. Altogether, emotions embedded in online rumors are important determinants of the spreading dynamics.
Key words: Online rumors / Information cascade / Online diffusion / Emotions / Regression analysis
© The Author(s) 2021
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