Testing Shibutani’s Prediction Of Information Seeking Behavior In Rumor

Tierney, Kathleen J.
Aguirre, Benigno E.
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Disaster Research Center
The paper tests a set of predictions regarding information seeking behavior in rumors derived from models of rumors by Shibutani and others. Data for the analysis comes from a random sample of 1,042 households in Memphis, Tennessee surveyed by the Disaster Research Center prior to December 3rd 1990 in connection with the Iben Browning prediction of an imminent massive earthquake in the New Madrid fault zone. The results support Shibutani’s prediction of a positive association between the use of formal and informal sources of information; Knopf’s prediction that rumors are part of pre-existing generalized beliefs in a community; and McPhail’s hypothesis that the network of relationships available to people is an important determinant of their search for and use of informal information. These findings indicate that Shibutani’s model of rumors should be supplemented by attention to the importance of cultural context and the logistics of accessibility and micro-participation. Unexpectedly, a large number of respondents did not use either formal or informal sources of information about the earthquake threat.
Shibutani's Prediction , Earthquake , Iben Browning Prediction