Urban Legend Propagation
This chapter is an investigation of Urban Legend propagation and the computational modelling of psychological phenomena. An urban legend is an apocryphal tale that the storyteller claims is true even though it might not be. Urban legends are a type of meme that can be passed from person to person by word of mouth.The work begins with a finding from the literature: Urban legends propagate farther when they are disgusting (Eriksson & Coultas, 2014). This is an example of a phenomenon known as
... emotional selection (e.g., Heath et al., 2001), in whichthe emotion evoked by a message can influence how the message is treated. The current work is a conceptual replication of urban legend transmission based on aseries of studies conducted in Eriksson & Coultas (2014), which we conducted as a computational simulation. We extended their empirical models to generalize beyond the laboratory in an effort to achieve better ecological validity.This work offers two primary contributions. The first contribution pertains directly to the emotional selection of urban legends, which will be explored in a social network context. The second and more fundamental contribution pertains to the science of computational modelling for social psychological phenomena. While the investigation of urban legends is of interest in the context of memesand social networks, the computational modelling developments are intended to apply generally throughout psychological science.