What do we believe in? Rumors and processing strategies during the COVID-19 outbreak in China. Academic Article uri icon


  • The COVID-19 pandemic is called the first infodemic in history. Those first confronted by the enormous challenge of fighting this infodemic to save their lives were the people of Hubei Province in China. To understand how they defined and processed rumors, we conducted an interview study with Hubei residents when they were under lockdown. We found that they typically defined rumors in terms of one or two of three features: non-factual information, information unsanctioned by the government, and information causing panic. They reported low motivation in verifying the information and often either rejected any information they perceived as suspicious or waited for the government to debunk rumors. Even among those who tried to verify information, most relied exclusively on heuristic processing cues such as source credibility, linguistic and visual cues, and intuition. Systematic processing strategies such as fact-checking and discussing with family and friends were seldom used.

published proceedings

  • Public Underst Sci

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Zou, W., & Tang, L. u.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Zou, Wenxue||Tang, Lu

publication date

  • February 2021