JOUR 601 Lecture Notes - Lecture 28: Opinion Leadership, Behavioural Sciences
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Diffusion of Innovation
Diffusion: the process through which an innovation (a perceived new idea) spreads via certain
communication channels over time among the members of a social system
Basically, how messages diffuse from one gate to another.
This is not a recent phenomenon. In the early 2oth century it was noted and even before that.
Tarte (1903) wrote the Laws of Imitation:
1. Innovation adoption rate (the S curve)
2. Role of social status
3. Opinion leadership: important in disseminating information to larger groups of people
Social scientists were starting to work on this during the WW2 era. Ryan & Gross worked on this
in 1943 and said looking at non-economic factors must be at work to explain a seemingly non-
They studied the economic vs social factors in the dissemination of innovation.
In their research, they studied the explanations centered on how farmers obtained information
about the innovation and which sources/channels were influential in helping them to decide to
use the new idea, which they initially perceived as uncertain and at least somewhat risky.
In this study in a rural community in Iowa, it took 13 years before people were aware of a
certain innovation existing. It took 7 years before planting the first hybrid corn seed before
others started using it.
This shows that diffusion of innovation can be a long process but now-a-days it’s much shorter
with the adoption of the internet
Diffusion of innovation leads to diffusion of awareness, which is the diffusion of information
Diffusion of adoption: the actual behavior
The most important influence of people adopting this technology was satisfied neighbors. This
shows the power and importance of interpersonal connections.
At the heart of the diffusion process is an information-exchange about innovation. In this
study, farmers share their personal and subjective experiences with a new idea and gradually
give it meaning to innovation.
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