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The Watercooler Effect: A Psychologist Explores the Extraordinary Power of Hearsay
     

The Watercooler Effect: A Psychologist Explores the Extraordinary Power of Hearsay

by Nicholas DiFonzo
 

A deeply revealing look at why we spread rumors, why we believe them, and how they affect our behavior.

During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rumors were flying about stranded residents shooting rescue workers. In New York City, the Brooklyn Bottling Group's business was devastated by false rumors that its soda contained sterilizers.

Psychologist

Overview

A deeply revealing look at why we spread rumors, why we believe them, and how they affect our behavior.

During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rumors were flying about stranded residents shooting rescue workers. In New York City, the Brooklyn Bottling Group's business was devastated by false rumors that its soda contained sterilizers.

Psychologist Nicholas DiFonzo has studied hearsay for more than fifteen years, and in this book he shows that the process that gave rise to these troubling rumors is fundamentally the same as a tete-à-tete around the company watercooler.

Why are rumors a ubiquitous aspect of the human experience— whether they're about plots to wipe out the urban poor through sterilizers or a company's plan to downsize? Armed with entertaining examples from all spheres of life, DiFonzo asserts that rumors are a window into both individual and group psychology.

DiFonzo ultimately argues that rumors stem from our deeply rooted motivation to make sense of the world. As social beings, when confronted with an ambiguous or threatening situation, our response is to talk to one another—whether at the dinner table, on the Web, or around the watercooler.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

DiFonzo, a professor of psychology at the Rochester Institute of Technology whose work on rumors was featured in the New York Times Magazine 's 2006 "Year in Ideas" issue, uncovers some surprising facts about rumors: what they are and why we spread them, listen to them and believe them. Drawing on a host of studies, DiFonzo illustrates how rumors are "a fundamental phenomenon of social beings." Rumors are created by people who are in unclear or confusing situations and want desperately to find an explanation. There are different varieties of rumors: they can express something much wished for (year-end bonuses), while others are a form of propaganda. Rumors can be a remarkably efficient way of spreading information: a study of military gossip during WWII found that the "grapevine" passed information just as accurately as-and more quickly than-official channels. But gossip drives wedges between people as often as it binds them. "Viral" rumors, spread repeatedly by e-mail, can gain credibility from repetition, and such repetition can turn a rumor into a self-fulfilling prophecy: banks fail, stocks tank. DiFonzo's clear explanations and entertaining examples make for thoughtful reading. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781583333259
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/11/2008
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
13 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Nicholas Difonzo is a professor of psychology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He has published numerous scholarly articles on the topic of rumor and is the coauthor of the academic book Rumor Psychology. His work on the phenomenon of rumors in the workplace was featured in the 2006 New York Times Magazine “Year in Ideas” issue.

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