Information Seeking Behavior in Collective Surges: Testing Alternative Collective Behavior Formulations

Aguirre, Benigno E.
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Disaster Research Center
This paper tests a set of predictions regarding information seeking behavior in collective surges derived from models of rumors by Shibutani, Knof, and McPhail. Data for the analysis comes from a random sample of 1,042 households in Memphis, Tennessee surveyed by the Disaster Research Center prior to Iben Browning's December 3rd 1990 prediction of an imminent massive earthquake in the New Madrid fault zone. Result suppport McPhail's hypothesis that the network of relationships available to people is an important determinant of their information seeking behavior in situations of collective preoccupations as well as Shibutani's prediction of a positive association between the use of formal and informal sources of information. The results fail to support Knopf's prediction that information seeking is impacted by pre-existing generalized beliefs. Attention to the logistics of accessibility and microparticipation is a useful supplementation to the emphasis on the use of the mass media for understanding informal information seeking activities during collective preoccupations.
rumors , Memphis, Tennessee , McPhail , Knof