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A lecture in social science class

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Listen to audio recording and answer the questions.

Narrator
Listen to part of a lecture in social science class.

Prof: Today we're going to begin with a short quiz. No, no, you don't need pencil and paper, just listen. It's only one question. Ready? OK. What do blogs, Pokemon, tattoos, Cabbage Patch Kids, pet rocks, and hula hoops have in common? Anybody?

S1: They're all stupid. [laughter]

S2: I know, Professor Morgan. They're all fads.

Prof: Correct. Now here's another question: How did you know that? In other words, what are the characteristics of a fad, and what's the difference between a fad and a trend? These are the questions we're going to consider together this afternoon. Well, the main difference, I think, between a fad and a trend concerns time. A fad is something that seems to appear suddenly. It quickly becomes enormously popular, and then disappears just as suddenly as it came. A trend also appears rather suddenly, and it also becomes very popular, but it doesn't disappear. A trend can have a long-term influence on its particular market. Fads and trends often resemble each other at first glance, but a fad usually has a definite beginning and end. Um, Pokemon might be a fad, but the idea of fantasy playing cards for children might be a trend, for example.

Another difference is that fads usually stay within one industry. Trends can cross over into many industries. The hula hoop, for instance, has been called the greatest fad of all time. Twenty five million [false start] In the late 1950s, 25 million hula hoops were sold in just four months. But a year later, sales had virtually stopped. The hula hoop was a toy. It was fun to play with, but that's about all. Now consider cell phones. They were designed to be portable telephones, but they crossed over into the worlds of fashion, wireless communication, and now even photography. People buy cell phones that match the latest clothes fashions. They use cell phones for wireless Internet access. They take photos with them. Cell phones have become a trend.

Ahem [clears throat or coughs] Here's a third difference between fads and trends: how well industries accept them. Fads are often promoted by smaller companies. They need the quick money that fads provide. Large companies don't accept fads right away. They can't afford to be wrong. If someone [false start] If a company is known as a trend-setter, and it promotes a fad, its reputation will be damaged. Large companies buy products in huge numbers. They don't want unsold products sitting on their shelves. So they wait to see if a fad becomes a trend. Then they will accept it in their stores. Now... yes?

S2: How long does a fad have to last before it becomes a trend? I mean, there are all these energy drinks now. There used to be only a couple, but now there's like, a hundred. Are they still a fad? Exercise is a trend, so wouldn't energy drinks be part of the exercise trend?

Prof: That's an excellent question! When exactly does a fad become a trend? You know, there are people who are paid a lot of money to answer that question. If they get it right, companies become rich and famous. If they get it wrong, companies go bankrupt and careers get ruined. The short answer is: nobody knows. Distinguishing between fads and trends is an art, not a science. If it were easy, there would be a lot more rich people in the world. Yes, in the back.

S1: Yeah, um...can't people get rich from fads, too? You said they sold 25 million hula hoops in four months. Someone must have made big money off that?

Prof: Yes, they did. Toy companies made, uh, $45 million off of hula hoops by the time the fad ended. And maybe some of you have heard of pet rocks, in the 1970s? A man bought a rock for a penny, put it in a gift box and marketed it as a pet. He became an instant millionaire. But the problem [false start] The trouble with fads is, no one can predict them. This man had no idea that so many people would buy rocks as pets. He started it as kind of a joke. The Pokemon creators had no clue their cards would become instantly popular all over the world. That's the thing. Fads are mysterious to both their creators and to the public.

1

What is the main topic of the lecture?

2

How does the professor introduce fads?

3

According to the professor, what is the main difference between a fad and a trend?

Listen again to part of the passage and answer the following question.

4

Why does the professor say this: "Yes, in the back."?

Listen again to part of the passage and answer the following question.

5

What does the student mean when she says this: "They're all stupid."?

6

Which of the following is NOT a characteristic of a fad?