Summary of The Truth About Behavioral Change

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Knowing about a new service or technology won’t make people adopt it. Would you bother creating a Facebook account or learning the ins and outs of a new software tool if nobody else within your close circle was using the social platform or computer program? In an excerpt from his book, How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions, social scientist Damon Centola convincingly demonstrates that people’s networks of acquaintances – rather than close friends – matter most in spreading ideas or technology. Centola’s highly informative article is a must-read for anyone interested in the diffusion of innovation.

About the Author

Damon Centola is an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.



Despite common misperceptions, Twitter didn’t become the world’s largest communication platform by going viral. Just learning about the platform’s existence didn’t prompt people to start using it. Rather, Twitter grew incrementally, spreading from one social circle to the next. Twitter’s growth pattern was one of “complex contagion” rather than simple, or viral, contagion.

The distinction is relevant for organizations that want employees to embrace new behavior patterns or customers to adopt a new product. Information, like a virus, spreads through simple contagion...

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