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On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done First Edition Edition

3.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0809094738
ISBN-10: 0809094738
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The coauthor of the bestselling Nudge continues his quest to gently reclaim human nature from its dysfunctional proclivities in this slender treatise on a slight problem. Sunstein, a legal scholar and Office of Management and Budget adviser, insists that false rumors are a real scourge, now made exponentially direr by the Internet's facility in disseminating them. Rumors, Sunstein says, can cause financial panics and undermine democracy itself by fueling unfounded suspicions of leaders and institutions. He buttresses this thesis with a laborious exposition of the psychology of rumormongering, delving into experiments that prove, among other truisms, that people tend to believe rumors that gibe with their preconceptions. Sunstein's alarmism seems unfounded—are rumors really more threatening today than in the pre-Internet dark ages when they sparked pogroms?—and the book feels like a padded-out magazine article, climaxing in a few unobjectionable but underwhelming proposals to modestly tighten up libel law. The intellectual turf he has staked out, bounded by law, social regulation and pop psychology, seems played out—so perhaps he should let it lie fallow awhile. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“With clear examples and lucid arguments, On Rumors couldn’t come at a better time in the country’s increasingly divisive—and deceptive—public discourse.” —Seed

 

“Time spent in reading this author’s views is a profitable investment. The reader may view rumors differently afterward.” —Aaron Klein, World Net Daily
 

“Cass Sunstein has written a crisp, provocative book on a worrying problem—the susceptibility of our electronified society to base rumors. He convincingly shows that the constitutional marketplace of ideas does not solve the problem.” —Anthony Lewis

 

“It often seems that rumors are the one element that can travel faster than the speed of light. In On Rumors, Cass Sunstein helps us understand their incredible appeal, their power, and their dangers. A fun-tastic book.” —Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics, Duke University, and author of Predictably Irrational

 

“Truth doesn’t always win in the marketplace of ideas. Lies spread too. Cass Sunstein explains why and he outlines what, in a world of Facebook, tabloids, and blogs, we ought to do about it.” —Chip Heath, author of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809094738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809094738
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,516,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Elizabeth Ray VINE VOICE on November 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This slim little volume purports to explain how rumors disseminate, the reasons why people are inclined to believe them, and what can be done to stop the spread of false rumors. The author succeeds on the first two objectives, using a combination of results of psychology experiments, legal decisions, and real world examples to make his points. On the third objective he falters. He acknowledges that there needs to be a balance between the elusive "chilling factor" that would cause people to think twice before initiating or propagating false rumors and the right to free speech, but in the end seems to conclude that in the age of the internet the victims of falsehoods are screwed. Perhaps he is right, but I was hoping for more concrete ideas in the "what can be done" sections.
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Format: Hardcover
The emotionally charged polarized reviews on Amazon for this book are quite entertaining and surprising, and corroborate his section on "The Importance of Prior Conviction" (p 16-21). This book is definitely worth an hour of your time and it shouldn't require much more than that. I'd encourage anyone to read the first half of the book (just over 40 pages) and skip or skim read the rest. Whether that is worth $10 is debatable.

Pros:
* The information in this book can be covered by the reader in 1-2 hours
* Clearly and succinctly covers common problems of group decision making
1. Information Cascades (p 21-8)
2. Conformity Cascades (p 28-32)
3. Group Polarization (p 32-42)

Cons:
* This book is only 88 pages; the second half is largely forgettable
* His coverage of Biases (p 42-57) is disappointing
* His tentatively proposed solutions are insightful, but still very much a work in progress

I think Nudge is a better book - if for nothing else because you also get Thaler's input - but similarly Nudge is largely worthy of skim reading after the first half (actually after 100 pages). I think Sunstein is a very bright guy with tremendous insight. I just wish that instead of putting out so many different books he would put out fewer books that are more comprehensive.
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Format: Hardcover
A light read and essentially an abridged version of Sunstein's Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide with the same basic arguments and examples. The goal is to explain why people accept false and destructive rumors and if we can protect ourselves against them. The key concepts presented are "social cascades" and "group polarization". The former is about whether or not one's peer group already holds a particular pov towards the subject. Casstein suggests that there is a tipping point level of external endorsement, different for each of us, where notions previously thought foolish or marginals suddenly become not only acceptable but consequential.

Once a rumour becomes entrenched there is a tendency to seek confirmation and filter out contradictory data... and people, either by forming cliques or other associations. This is especially easy to do on the Internet where simple search will lead one to communities of like minded people that can act as an echo chamber.

Rumour propagators may in some cases be malicious, in other cases they are simply interested in drawing a crowd to present their case where damage to others is collateral and unintended. Propagators may also believe themselves to be sincere and altruistic in bringing the rumour to the world's attention; listeners may latch onto the sincerity and reputation of the speaker, enhanced by the size, membership or credentials of other members of the community as justification for accepting false or misleading information. Solidarity leads to conformity and more tightly held views.
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Format: Hardcover
This had GREAT potential. Then the author threw it away by droning on in suppositions and hypotheticals. Really? Like there aren't enough real people believing completely ridiculous rumors that he could have used to make this interesting and engaging? It's hard to believe a book about rumors could be this boring.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an interesting little book and also humorous. A good quick read. I understand it was reviewed in the Atlantic Monthly magazine.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting, would recommend this book for anyone wanting to follow politics and business, much less gossip passing as news and other issues.
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