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Barely a week into January and it is already the human interest story of 2011. A homeless man in Columbus, Ohio is discovered by a videographer for the local newspaper. After capturing the man’s voice on video and posting it to the paper’s website, it goes viral. Ted Williams becomes more popular on the internet than the Hall of Fame baseball player. He also becomes the little darling of the media. Numerous lucrative job offers follow. Is this truly a “rags to riches” story or is Williams likely to be back on the streets somewhere in the future?

QUESTIONS:

  1. You’ve probably seen them before – panhandlers standing at a major intersection in a large city. What thoughts go through your mind? What attributions (about their situation) do you make? Managers make similar attributions about their employees. Think about this – if the Ted Williams that appeared in the original video walked in off the street and asked you for a job, would you hire him?
  2. Talk about it. What role do stereotypes play in the judgments you make about others? Our stereotypes extend not just to the homeless, but also to the opposite sex, people with different ethnicities/nationalities, and people with different levels of attractiveness. How can you guard against misusing stereotypes?
  3. Many wonder how a homeless man could become an overnight sensation. Ted Williams’ personality has a lot to do with it. View video of Mr. Williams. What Big Five personality dimensions draw people to him?
  4. While being homeless is bound to be stressful, Mr. Williams definitely has a lot more to deal with now than he did before his discovery. How would you categorize his current stress? What are the possible reactions he could have if the stress becomes too great?

SOURCE: Associated Press, “Silky-Voiced Homeless Man Copes With Sudden Fame,” USA Today (Retrievable online at http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2011-01-07-williams-fame_N.htm)

Original video clip:

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