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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Why do people forward hoax emails to everyone they know? I just got this little gem from a teller at a distant branch who in her infinite wisdom decided to forward it along to everyone in the organization. It was recalled less than five minutes after she hit send (and I forwarded her a link to the Snopes article cited above), but what would possess someone to do such an act?

It would be easy to trot out the “stupid people” or “credulous Web user” theses, but there are far more of either category than the number of hoax emails I get forwarded. In other words, I know there are plenty of stupid and/or gullible people who don’t forward this trash. So what gives?

They’re people who believe what they read and spread it to inform anyone they can. Psychologically, I think they’re probably trying to attract attention to themselves in some fashion—Chicken Little’s with a modicum of crying wolf thrown in. Epistemologically, they’re probably concrete-bound, distintegrated types. They clearly aren’t able to critically process information and it’s scary.