On the Social Diffusion of Sophisticated Ideas

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Vol. 3, No. 10, 2009

14 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2012 Last revised: 14 Oct 2012

See all articles by Stefano Adamo

Stefano Adamo

Banja Luka University; International Centre for Economic Research (ICER)

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

Why do certain complex ideas — e.g., scientific, political or economic theories — spread in society, become a matter of debate, while others do not? How and why does the content of complex ideas change the more they are debated by the wider public? How does communicating expert knowledge affect public discourse and political decision making? I argue that in order to identify and possibly predict the social fate of a complex idea, one must explore how lay people understand it. Drawing on cognitive theory and historical research, I propose a theory that describes the social diffusion of complex ideas as a consequence of how lay people construe the relation between those ideas and their perceived real-world contexts. In contrast to the conventional view, the theory suggests that changes to the conceptual content of a complex idea are not an inevitable tradeoff of the spreading process; instead, these changes are what make the idea salient at the individual level, and therefore foster its social diffusion. The article includes a short summary of the historical investigation from which the theory has emerged.

Keywords: cognition and culture, relevance theory, analysis of beliefs, lay comprehension, public opinion

Suggested Citation

Adamo, Stefano, On the Social Diffusion of Sophisticated Ideas (2009). The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Vol. 3, No. 10, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2031420

Stefano Adamo (Contact Author)

Banja Luka University

Bulevar vojvode Petra Bojovića 1a
Banja Luka, 78 000
Bosnia and Herzegovina

International Centre for Economic Research (ICER) ( email )

Villa Gualino
Viale Settimio Severo, 63
10133 Torino
Italy

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