The diffusion theory, also known as the diffusion of innovations theory, is a theory concerning the spread of innovation, ideas, and technology through 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 cause them to accept or not to accept an innovation. There are also many qualities of innovations that can cause people to readily accept them or to resist them.
According to diffusion theory, there are five stages to 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. Next is 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 implementation, in which the individual actually does adopt and use the innovation. Confirmation is the final stage. After making adopting the innovation, the individual makes a final decision about whether or not to continue using it based on his own personal experience with it. These same stages apply, to varying degrees, to groups of people in addition to individuals.
There are many factors of 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 whatever standard preceded it, it will eventually be adapted. However, if the innovation goes against the moral values of the people, they will be less likely to adapt it. The ability to try the innovation without committing to it right away also influences the likelihood of people adopting the innovation.
Simplicity of use is also a major factor in the adoption of innovations. No matter how good an innovation is, people will be hesitant to adopt it if it is difficult to use and to learn. Most important, though, are observable results. When people begin to see the good that the innovation is doing for them and for their neighbors, they will find it difficult to resist the temptation to adopt it. These qualities of the innovation are of the utmost importance to diffusion theory.
Diffusion theory is also concerned with the rate at which innovations spread. Some people adopt the innovation immediately, while others hold out for a long time and continue using older methods. The rate of adoption 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 many people give an innovation poor reviews, people are likely to be slow to adopt it.