On Rumors How Falsehoods Spread Why We Believe Them What

On Rumors How Falsehoods Spread Why We Believe Them What Can Be Done Decent book on how and why false rumors spread with primary focus on cognitive biases which result in people using existing beliefs to confirm or discard new information A few things1 Sunstein references one study that seems to indicate when the stakes are higher people tend to minimize influence of biases Sunstein doesn’t discuss whether this mutes the practical importance of his thesis Generally Sunstein seems to rely on lab setting studies that seem low stakes to make broad claims I’m skeptical of this approach as the experimental Econ literature has shown that stakes seem to generally matter with respect to robustness of research findings2 Sunstein seems to confuse Twitter for the real world crazy there’s a difference right Rumors spread fast on Twitter People mindlessly retweet and add asinine comments but does this influence voter behaviorpolarization at the margin? I’m personally doubtful of this claim See related study informing my doubts ’d send this to book to anyone you respect who spends too much time on TwitterFacebook mindlessly sharingretweeting content below their intellectual capability who seem to be driven by the latest outrage Hopefully it would cause for a moment of self reflection Overall Sunstein provides a useful framework of thinking about these issues but I have my doubts about their empirical robustness I bought this book as serendipitously I’d been the victim of a rumour and was fascinated at how you could say something and it be taken in completely the wrong way Further that by addressing that rumour publicly only added fuel to flames We often think of those who spread rumours as being self interested and those who attempt to demise the reputation of another in an evil way Whilst this is sometimes the case we fail to understand the benefit that rumours give us; we find out information about things and people that may ultimately benefit us if true and don’t harm us if we find out they are indeed false Once one person states something and another takes this up and propagates it it becomes believable as why else would so many people be saying the same thing? We often share what we have heard without checking the truth of every statement Shared falsehood have apparent respectability We are social animals and Sunstein outlines experiments in social psychology which demonstrate the phenomenon of our want to be liked and to be right and so we may pass rumours on for either of these reasons Sunstein aided my understanding in group polarisation and showed that our own biases blind us to another viewpoint and with discussion of the other side it only fixes us to our original stance Thus it is futile to address a falsehood against you as you make a stronger case against yourself for those who believed it anyway; those who believe you would not have believed the falsehood in the first place Similarly when trying to rationally argue your religious political or such views to another it will only make them strongly opposed to you Essentially Sunstein argues that there is nothing that can be done beside litigation against slander but this prohibits free speech and we all know how 1984 looked 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? Rumour Has ItA 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 I recommend the longer version 4 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 conseuentialOnce a rumour becomes entrenched there is a tendency to seek confirmation and filter out contradictory data and people either by forming cliues 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 chamberRumour 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 tightly held views In extreme case cases individuals become progressively radicalized to the point where aggressive action becomes a real possibility and dominates personal behaviourAs a model of how we accept process and internalize information the theory is not bad but while we would hope for some insight as to whether a particular rumour is true or false Sunstein admits to not having an answer In my parent's generation there were voices of authority that people would respect in order to ascertain which beliefs were normalative and acceptable a chilling effect on fringe ideas which Sunstein cautions is not always bad And where one might place hope in Justice Brandeis's dictum that sunlight and a free society is the best disinfectant for falsehood Sunstein worries that this is no guarantee as people do assimilate argumentation incompletely with an emotional biasCompared to Extremes what the book lacks is an index footnotes pointing to Sunstein's sources and the latter chapters on social movements If all you are interested in are the ideas or if you are a teacher and your target audience is middle or high school students pick this one which IMV is easy accessible and brief Otherwise get Extremes Both would be unnecessary I loved Nudge but this book is far from insightful I will save you some time read the title and subtitle and spend half an hour thinking to yourself about the topic You've now probably hit all the major points You can then skip the book and won't miss much except some legal factoids near the end While essentially an essay and interesting for the most part that author fails to convince me of his conclusions The interesting and telling part is the discussion on the psychology of rumors why people accept them and why they are so difficult to refute The author then tries to discuss legal cases and statutes in which he implies that a softening of the First Amendment would be best for stopping the spread of falsehood which I find troubling A uick read but one to take with than one grain of salt BOOK REVIEW SUNSTEIN Cass On Rumors How Falsehoods Spread Why We Believe Them and What Can Be DoneISBN 13 978 0691162508Why people believe rumorsThis is a short precisely 100 page long essay on rumors why falsehoods spread and why people believe them written by a Harvard Law scholar The book deals with cognitive social psychology than with law The author states that even sensible smart people believe rumors He then discusses some examples and the harm caused magnified as it is in the Internet Era and asks why do rumors spread He discusses several factors such as people's initial convictions; the way human cognition works our tendency to look for information that confirms what we already know and to discard information that contradicts it Rumor transmission is often associated with cascade effects and group polarization concepts with which the author deals at somelenght He then notes the traditional way of fighting rumors which is exposing people to different sometimes informed balanced views a model called marketplace of ideas does not always work because of the phenomena of biased assimilation and polarization He discusses whether imposing liabilities on rumor propagators would be a good thing because such risk of liability could also have a bad side effect of chilling out truth tellers from speaking their mindsIt was than just a good book for me because it also made me think and ask new uestions That these new uestions were not dealt with is what prevents me from ualifying the book as excellentSunstein's freuent use of the marketplace of ideas metaphor refers to concepts pertaining our cultural inheritance from Greek Stoicism the civilizatory power of rational communication which shapes savage human beings into civilized persons in the political arena as well in the marketplace However this reference was not hinted at in the book When introduced to ancient Rome by Panaetius these ideas engendered the Western ideas of free speech and due process as well as our ways to deal with the vices which can poison free will in business dealings It was out of Stoic influence that Romans spoke of error when substantial and excusable as something voiding a contract Error and rumors are a repetition of errors is different from dolus the intentional misleading of others into errorThe systematic and intentional kindling of existing rumors in the marketplace or inception of new ones is called manipulation Sunstein diagnoses the problem he deals with as rumors I believe his diagnosis is lacking his problem is actually manipulation Thus he does not anwer the uestion whether it would be a better solution to fight intentional manipulation instead of curbing the sometimes and somewhat innocent propagation of rumors This is not Sunstein's fault he wrote the book he wanted to write which is a very good one not the one I'd wish to have read It is about rumors not about manipulation I liked reading it but I'm still wanting a comprehensive treatment of the subject A lightweight uick read view spoiler how uick? I read all of it during a dentist visit to have a crown fitted hide spoiler I was disappointed with this because I expect insights from Cass Sunstein The book does a good job of laying out the problems with counting on a 'marketplace of ideas' to produce truth But the ideas of polarization by conversation of confirmation bias and other psychological concepts well demonstrated by experiment are ideas I already knew about Sunstein's suggestions for changes to better balance 'chilling of free speech' with deference against promulgating false rumors are somewhat interesting but seem too little address the problem I had hoped for Many of us are being misled Claiming to know the “pals” of presidential aspirants dark secrets about public officials and hidden causes of the current economic crisis those who spread rumors know precisely what they are doing They are sometimes able to derail political candidates injure companies and reputations even damage democratic governance And in the era of the Internet they know about manipulating the mechanics of false rumors—social cascades group polarization and biased assimilation—than you do They also know that the presumed correctives—publishing balanced information issuing corrections and trusting to the marketplace of ideas—do not always work A pioneer in the effort “to design regulation around the ways people behave” The Wall Street Journal Cass R Sunstein uses examples from the real world and from behavioral studies to explain why certain rumors spread like wildfire and what we can do to avoid being misled


About the Author: Cass R. Sunstein

Cass R Sunstein is an American legal scholar particularly in the fields of constitutional law administrative law environmental law and law and behavioral economics who currently is the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration For 27 years Sunstein taught at the University of Chicago Law School where he continues to teach as


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