10 facts about urban legends

Modern culture is rooted in urban legends. From killer clowns to Slender Man, there’s no shortage of exceptional stories to tickle the imagination. Urban legends, however, tell us a lot about the ethos of our society.

Contemporary or modern urban legends are widely circulated narrative accounts of bizarre occurrences that typically relay warnings or cautionary advice. They instill a sense of horror, revulsion, shock, or humor. They have the ability to impact society, and many believe that urban legends hold the truth.

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Here are ten facts about urban legends.

  1. Urban legends exist because communicators take the risk that they will not be told by the recipients, thus exploiting fear.
  2. They continually resurface in different iterations, a phenomenon now guaranteed by email and social media.
  3. The results of a study published in Frontiers in Psychology indicate that those who promote and endorse anomalous beliefs, such as urban legends and the paranormal, are more likely to exhibit reality testing deficits and schizotypal characteristics, such as magical or strange thinking. To note, reality check refers to the ability to scrutinize the validity of beliefs with reference to external information.
  4. The authors also pointed out that those who subscribe to urban legends let subjective and personal experiences guide their interpretation of the world. “It appears that believers are more likely to engage in experiential processing and to base their inferences about the world on intuition and self-generated perceptions,” they wrote. “Thinking style undermines critical rational processing, which in turn perpetuates the self-validation of beliefs.”
  5. Urban legends can be classified into social type, survival type or combined type, according to the authors of a study published in the British Journal of Psychology. The social type urban legends contain social information and the survival type contains survival information, while the combined type contains elements of both. Investigators found that people were more likely to recall social and combination type legends compared to survival type legends. Nevertheless, participants recalled all three types with greater accuracy than the control materials.
  6. There is not a lot of peer-reviewed research on urban legends.
  7. Some experts argue that urban legends are actually a type of narrative rumor and call them rumor legends. Although captions tend to be more complex and story-like, like rumors, they are passed on with the intention of being believable and are difficult to verify. Urban legends, however, generally live longer on the internet than rumors.
  8. Urban legends use irony to relay a message that reinforces social norms. They warn the public of the repercussions of breaking social mores.
  9. Urban legends often spread negative information about products or brands (for example, unhealthy ingredients in fast food products). In this way, they can cause damage to the industry.
  10. Although rumors and urban legends change over the course of the story, with urban legends these changes are often cosmetic in nature. The setting or time of urban legends changes while the message is preserved, which gives urban legends autonomy, especially in the age of the internet.

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