A Practitioner’s Behavioral Approach: Reconceptualizing Whaley’s Word-of-Mouth Communication Model in an Online Context


  • Tim Pappa National Intelligence University, Bethesda, Maryland, USA




Barton Whaley; Word-Of-Mouth; Electronic Word-Of-Mouth; Online Influence; Disinformation


The late American scholar Barton Whaley wrote several classic works related to disinformation, but people are likely less familiar with his limited works on word-of-mouth communication. Whaley published two studies in the early 1960s, separately exploring word-of-mouth communication among mainland Chinese civilians and mainland Chinese Communist military personnel. Whaley found that word-of-mouth communication by “key communicators” in these communities who were the most trusted and most informed was more effective than radio for information sharing, and likely the most effective method for disinformation. This paper will primarily explore Whaley’s model, but then introduce relevant literature on group dynamics and electronic word-of-mouth communication, which has largely focused on marketing practices and consumers. This paper proposes integrating Whaley’s model into these related behavioral frameworks, reconceptualizing a model of a practitioner’s behavioral approach to word-of-mouth online influence.