Microanalysis of the Socio-Dynamics of diffusion of Innovation: A Simulation Study

Alba, Manuel S., PhD

Northwestern University, 1993


It seems a logical outcome of the interest in both geographic and sociological studies in diffusion that utilization of the simulation technique in the study of the socio-psychological dynamics of diffusion of innovation is to be attempted. Among the pioneers in this respect are the rural sociologists and. communication theorists most notably those at Michigan State University . Simulation studies of social diffusion would have a dual contribution along improvement of understanding of. the behavioral science contents of marketing and along quantitative enrichment of marketing research tools. If marketing has been heavily utilizing concepts and traditional .research techniques of social science in the investigation of its problems, it should also examine the possibility of applying a new approach which social science disciplines have started to use. This suggestion is implied from the increasing amount of simulation studies in psychology, sociology, political science, and communications theory. Some of these are discussed in Chapter 2. A number of marketing-rich simulation studies had been undertaken but most if not all of them relate to the decision-making behavior of firms from either economic or strictly marketing management viewpoint. To this researcher's knowledge, none has been attempted in the area of sociologically or psychologically oriented marketing problems. This research is an attempt at simulation of a social phenomenon rich in marketing implications -- the diffusion of innovation. The occurrence of diffusion is investigated in a model that is operationalized through a computer program. In this respect, it is possible to observe certain aspects of the process which would otherwise not be observable through the traditional research techniques. Specifically, through simulation it is possible to incorporate in a model the dynamics of the process and accordingly 1 new perspective could emerge, in the conception of the highly relevant phenomenon of diffusion. The various factors involved in the occurrence of diffusion are comprehended in the model and their interaction analyzed as it occurs through time. A defined sample of individuals making up a social system over which the innovation diffuses is set up in the simulation model with each individual endowed with attributes which are considered to predispose them to respond to communication stimulus or to adopt the innovation. As a crucial component of the set of entities in the model, the communication factor functions as an initiating and facilitating entity: As such, it is also to be described by a set of attributes that would indicate the nature of its function in the model structure. While the concepts and generalizations underlying the construction of the model in this study are primarily derived from studies of sociological nature, an attempt is made to translate the simulated results into marketing conclusions. One assurance of attaining this objective is the utilization of empirical data from a study of diffusion of an innovation. The innovation is a consumer durable. Figure 1 portrays the overall character of this research -- from its conceptual foundation, to its methodological formulation, and finally to the value and implications of its results.


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