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Internal Diffusion Process


Disciplines > Communication > Diffusion > Internal Diffusion Process

Knowledge | Persuasion | Decision | Implementation | Confirmation | See also


For ideas to diffuse across a population, they must also diffuse inside the head of each person, going from an external idea to an internally understood and adopted concept.


To adopt an idea, the person must first go from a state of not knowing to the state of knowing about the idea. Initially, this knowing can initially be relatively vague and develop only with attention and learning.


Ideas that are easier to learn, understand and so quicker and easier to know are more likely to be diffused across a population. Simplicity and similarity to existing ideas will get more ideas through this stage. Ideas should also be memorable. Knowing not only requires storage of the idea but also easy retrieval.


A joke that is short but distinctive is easier to remember than a longer bland joke.


It is one thing to know and another to accept and adopt. Many people know about things but distrust or disapprove of them and would certainly not recommend them to others. After knowing the idea, the next step is that the person needs to be persuaded to adopt the idea.

We all need to explain and so to gain certainty and control in our lives. Persuasion plays to these needs and more as it helps us see why the idea is good and how it may help us. In doings so it may provide evidence and emotional benefits as well as other explanation.

The persuasion to adopt an idea does not have to come from another person as we may persuade ourselves through musing about the concept.


Quicker diffusion will occur with ideas that are easy for people to persuade others and where it is easier to be persuade. Factors that make persuasion ease include a clear rationale and obvious benefits of adopting the idea.


If you laugh at a joke this gives evidence that it is funny.


At some point the person has to make one or more decisions about the idea. They evaluate it, judging it to be good and worthwhile. They may also decide to act, using the idea in some way. For diffusion, they  also need to decide to tell others, although they may not do this until after the confirmation stage.

The decision process accepts the rationale of the persuasion stage. It is an effective adoption gate where the person accepts the idea, integrating it into existing models.


To get through this gate, the persuasion must be good and the person must be able to evaluate the idea, doing a 'cost/benefit' analysis and assessing risk, and come up with a 'yes' decision. Hence ideas which offer clear benefit, are not costly and which offer lower risks (or which actually reduce risk) are more likely to be adopted.


I realize that a joke is funny and decide to add it to my stock of 'good jokes' to tell others.


Whilst the idea has now got through an important gate, it still needs to be used. Benefit only comes through application and ideas may lie dormant for years or wither on the vine.


Sometimes ideas do not get very far in this stage because, although they offer good potential benefits, they are difficult or expensive to implement. Ideas should thus be cheap and easy to use and offer limited risks. It can also help if the idea can be tried out without having to make a one-way commitment.


I actually tell others about the joke.


Finally, my decisions to adopt the idea needs to be confirmed. This is typically provided by evidence from implementation and practical use. For confirmation I not only need to be able to use the idea, I also need to be able to see that it is working (or not) and be able to confirm that the persuasion arguments were valid and that my decision to adopt was worthwhile.


To confirm that I should continue to tell others, I not only need to know that the idea works for me but also that it words for people I have told. If I hear that they do not like the idea or were unable to spread it themselves, then I will likely hold back on telling additional people.

Ideas that give clear feedback of benefits when they are used are easier to get through this stage. This evidence then becomes useful when I become the persuader in transmitting the concept.


A friend laughs at my joke, confirming my evaluation that it is funny. So I tell other people too. My friend later says they have told further people who also found it funny, so I tell the joke to even more people.

See also

Learning Theory


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