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The Watercooler Effect: An Indispensable Guide to Understanding and Harnessing the Power of Rumors Paperback – Bargain Price, September 1, 2009
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From 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A brilliant and scintillating exploration of a neglected topicthe willingness of people to report and spread apparent news, even when it is based on very little information. The Watercooler Effect is one of the most interesting nonfiction books of this year.
Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University and author of Discover Your Inner Economist.
The Watercooler Effect is a fresh look at informal communication, and how information spreads rapidly within and among the diverse groups of people that collectively make up our society. An absorbing and compelling book.
Daniel J. Levitin, professor of psychology at McGill University and author of The World in Six Songs and This Is Your Brain on Music
Nicholas DiFonzo is one of the worlds experts on why rumors spread. If youve ever wondered where rumors come from or whether some new rumor is true, this book will fascinate you.
Chip Heath, coauthor of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
That is the question.
We all know what a rumor is. It can be described as "an unverified account or explanation of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern". In The Watercooler Effect, Nicholas DiFonzo explores as well as explains why we as a society latch onto rumors in addition to how they get started. DiFonzo provides the reader examples of some very popular rumors and myths.
He explains that some times a rumor can get started just by someone providing minimum information or the listener mixing up some information. Think of it like the game "telephone". The more people who pass on the information, the less the end result turns out to be from the beginning. So why do we spread rumors or even claim a hint of legitimacy to these facts if all rumors are just that.....rumors. It's because it's one way we communicate. One of the biggest reasons we pay any attention to hearsay is fear. You say well that is stupid. There is no truth to rumors, so why would I fear them. It's for the simple fact that when we hear something that could jeopardize our jobs or maybe it's because we are just trying to make sense of all the situations happening around the world; whatever the case may be, we are wanting to reveal the certainty that circumstances surrounding us are going to be ok.
I didn't know quite what to expect when I started reading The Watercooler Effect. I knew though that the subject that was going to be discussed within this book was going to be interesting. Well it definitely was. Nicholas DiFonzo explanations were enlightening even though I wish there had been more examples I was still pleased with this novel. It made me think more about what's in a rumor as well as trying not to help spread the rumor mill right away. The Watercooler Effect is one of those novels everyone should read at least one.
After studying why we spread rumors, DiFonzo also discussed why we believe in them and what rumors do to each of us. We all know how we are taught in school that rumors can spread and change with each telling and this book looks into how rumors can affect our lives and how we act.
DiFonzo studied rumors for more than 15 years and explains the process of how rumors basically get started mostly around areas such as the coffee pot or watercooler at work. Probably more interesting is what he found out about why we spread rumors. Using some humor, the author tells a lot about the person who is spreading them. He found that when people are in an uncomfortable situation, they like to talk to one another to get some relief and thus the rumors are born. DiFonzo analyzed some specialized rumors that play even bigger roles in our lives. Those included ones made in the military and government situations. Thank goodness he found that most military rumors tend to be true while most often political rumors do not. In this highly active political year, I bet we would all agree with that!
The book was an interesting "one of a kind read" and although not my normal kind of book choice, I found it interesting and very clever. It is good to know and be reminded, however, that rumors can hurt people and that most people take them, sadly, at face value.
Submitted by Karen Haney, September, 2008
I was most interested in this book because of my interest in political rumors, and it is interesting to consider them in the light of some of the information presented here. For example, people spread political gossip not just to sway your vote, but also to reinforce their own status within the group; according to DiFonzo, "people are are not always primarily interested in the truth when they speak together, but rather to find ways to affiliate and bond with one another."
Another interesting issue is that of fact-checking. I have often wondered why people who forward those viral emails don't take a minute or two to check their facts. After all, who wants to look foolish, forwarding a hoax? Apparently, that is part of the answer: people don't check their facts because they don't want to embarass the person who sent them the rumor. (That has never stopped me, for the record. I am in favor of embarassing mass-forwarders whenever I can.) No excuse, in my opinion, for some of the dreck that gets passed around.
Generally speaking, this is an interesting and timely book, but you won't find any startling revelations here. There are some interesting anecdotes and a lot of common sense information, including some techniques for managing the rumor mill that might be useful for those readers forced to deal with office politics.