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Diffusion theory, also known as diffusion theory of innovations, is a theory related to the diffusion of innovation, ideas and technology across a culture or cultures. The theory has been extensively studied by sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists. Diffusion theory states that there are many qualities in different people that lead them to accept an innovation or not. There are also many qualities of innovations that can make people readily accept or resist them.
According to diffusion theory, there are five stages in the process of adopting an innovation. The first stage is knowledge, in which an individual becomes aware of an innovation but has no information about it. Then comes persuasion, in which the individual becomes actively interested in seeking knowledge about the innovation. In the third stage, decision, the individual weighs the advantages and disadvantages of the innovation and decides whether or not to adopt it.
After the decision comes the implementation, in which the individual actually adopts and uses the innovation. Confirmation is the final step. After adopting the innovation, the individual makes the final decision on whether or not to continue using it based on their own personal experience with the innovation. These same stages apply, to varying degrees, to groups of people as well as individuals.
There are many factors in the innovations themselves that determine how likely people are to adopt them and how quickly people will adopt them. Generally speaking, if an innovation is better than any previous standard, it will eventually be adapted. However, if the innovation goes against people’s moral values, they will be less likely to adapt. The ability to try out the innovation without committing to it right away also influences the likelihood that people will adopt the innovation.
Simplicity of use is also an important factor in the adoption of innovations. No matter how good an innovation is, people will hesitate to adopt it if it is difficult to use and learn. Most important, however, are the observable results. Once people begin to see the good that the innovation is doing for them and their neighbors, they will have a hard time resisting the temptation to embrace it. These qualities of innovation are of extreme importance to diffusion theory.
Diffusion theory is also concerned with the rate of diffusion of innovations. Some people embrace the innovation right away, while others resist it for a long time and keep using older methods. The adoption rate depends on many factors. If, for example, a highly respected member of a community adopts an innovation, many more people are likely to follow. If too many people give an innovation bad reviews, they are likely to be slow to adopt it.