Behavior: Psst! Wait Till You Hear This

A scholar says rumors reveal our fears and desires

Have you heard? There's a Belgian beer that makes you impotent, the Chinese once caught President Nixon pocketing a priceless teacup, and dim-witted ecologists are renting airplanes to drop poisonous snakes on the forests of France.

Dedicated Rumormonger Jean-Noel Kapferer, 38, has heard those spurious stories and some 10,000 other tales. A Parisian academic, Kapferer, in 1984, created the Foundation for the Study of Rumors. His office, not far from the Paris Stock Exchange, runs a 24-hour hotline dedicated to collecting examples of tattle while they are still fresh. "It's very important to hear about them the instant they start," he...

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