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Learning and Using New Ideas: A Sociocognitive Perspective

KATHLEEN M.CARLEY

One of the key ways in which individuals garner new information is through their interaction with others. Sometimes, individuals act as passive receptors and like a sponge soaking up new ideas, while at others times they actively seek new information. How individuals acquire and use such information is a function of both cognition and structure, the way they think and their position in the social world. Recent research in psychology, sociology, cognitive science, and communication theory has increased our understanding of the way in which individuals acquire and use information and the cognitive and social constraints on these processes.

It is useful to think about the acquisition and use of information as occurring within an interaction-knowledge network. From an individual’s perspective, the nodes in the network can be the various sources of information, such as other individuals, organizations, books, or news shows. Most empirical studies, however, focus on networks with only one type of node—individuals. In this network, the ties between the nodes can be any type of linkage; examples include economic, advice, friendship, or social support. Again most empirical studies focus on only a small set of these linkages. However, the reality is that individuals acquire and use information within networks composed of multiple types of nodes and organized through a multiplex of relations. At the node level, cognitive constraints on the way individuals process information

Kathleen Carley is professor of sociology at Carnegie Mellon University.



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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives 6 Learning and Using New Ideas: A Sociocognitive Perspective KATHLEEN M.CARLEY One of the key ways in which individuals garner new information is through their interaction with others. Sometimes, individuals act as passive receptors and like a sponge soaking up new ideas, while at others times they actively seek new information. How individuals acquire and use such information is a function of both cognition and structure, the way they think and their position in the social world. Recent research in psychology, sociology, cognitive science, and communication theory has increased our understanding of the way in which individuals acquire and use information and the cognitive and social constraints on these processes. It is useful to think about the acquisition and use of information as occurring within an interaction-knowledge network. From an individual’s perspective, the nodes in the network can be the various sources of information, such as other individuals, organizations, books, or news shows. Most empirical studies, however, focus on networks with only one type of node—individuals. In this network, the ties between the nodes can be any type of linkage; examples include economic, advice, friendship, or social support. Again most empirical studies focus on only a small set of these linkages. However, the reality is that individuals acquire and use information within networks composed of multiple types of nodes and organized through a multiplex of relations. At the node level, cognitive constraints on the way individuals process information Kathleen Carley is professor of sociology at Carnegie Mellon University.

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives affects behavior such as their ability to acquire and communicate information. At the tie level, structural constraints on the pattern of relations affect behavior. Most research focuses at either the node or the tie level. Recently, however, there has been some progress in understanding information diffusion from a combined cognitive and structural perspective. COGNITION AND INFORMATION It has become fairly commonplace for researchers in the behavioral and cognitive sciences to argue that human decision making is not rational. One form of this argument states that individuals are at least boundedly rational (Simon, 1976, 1979; Cyert and March, 1956, 1963; Carley and Newell, 1994; Carley and Prietula, 1994). The second form of this argument states that humans deviate in fairly systematic ways from the prescriptions of expected utility theory (Tversky and Kahneman, 1974; Ross et al., 1977; Kahneman et al., 1982). Research following both of these paradigmatic arguments is informing our understanding of how individuals acquire and use information. Humans as Boundedly Rational To say that humans are boundedly rational implies both that they are cognitively limited in their ability to process information and that they are structurally limited in their ability to acquire and disseminate information. A great deal of research in cognitive psychology, social psychology, and organization science points to the fact that in making decisions, individuals do not have full information and do not use all of the information they do have. For example, Feldman and March (1981) note that in organizations, most information that is collected is never used. They argue that information is often collected, particularly within organizations, simply to give others the appearance that one is acting rationally. Because the control of and access to information are instruments of power (Branscomb, 1994), information collection and dissemination become a means of maintaining and exercising power. Consequently, issues of individual response to power and status differentials play a role in understanding whether people will acquire and use information from particular sources. A wide range of findings exists about the specific way in which humans process information. A classic cognitive limitation has to do with memory: the primacy and recency effect. The basic idea is that individuals have a tendency to remember information they heard first and last and to forget the material in between. Other cognitive limitations have to do with the complexity of the information (the classic 7+–2 rule) and the fact

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives that if individuals chunk information (e.g., by using memory tricks and mnemonics), they can remember more. Cognitive limitations essentially slow the rate of information diffusion. One of the most interesting cognitive limitations is the way in which individuals assess causality; specifically, individuals use a “covariation principle” to assess causality (Heider, 1958; Kelley, 1967). The covariation principle states that if event A accompanies outcome B, and if event A is absent when outcome B is absent, then people tend to attribute A as the cause of B. There is ample evidence that individuals see causality and correlation as going together. In particular, individuals seem to construct correlations to confirm their prior expectations about what causes what (Chapman and Chapman, 1967, 1969). Individuals look for salient cues in suggesting causal links, rather than calculating them from the statistical occurrences (Fiske and Taylor, 1991). In other words, individuals seek out obvious indicators of what they think should be causing some outcome and use such cues to make predictions about others. From an information diffusion perspective, this means that individuals may incorrectly assume that the diffusion of a new birth control technique may have various beneficial or deleterious effects simply because of accidental temporal correlations. Today, cognitive scientists are in the process of developing sophisticated models of cognition that are consistent with these and other known limitations. These models often take the form of computational models, such as ACT-R and Soar (for a more detailed review, see National Research Council, 1998). A key element of each of these models is that for an individual, future action (including learning and use of new information) is a function of what the individual already knows. In these models, as individuals learn they alter their mental models and typically cannot reconstruct how they thought about a problem prior to getting the new information. This effect, referred to as hindsight bias, has been shown in empirical studies to cause individuals to be unable to reproduce the decision that they would have made prior to knowing the true outcome (Wasserman et al., 1991). Or in other words, it is difficult for people to judge ahead of time how likely they are to accept new information and to judge, after the information has diffused, whether they were originally predisposed to accepting that information. Much of the recent work in cognitive science focuses on the relation between information, language, and cognition (Hanson, 1990). Some of this work lies in the area of belief formation. In fact, there is a substantial literature on the role of messages in affecting individuals’ attitudes and beliefs: for example, the work on reinforcement theory (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975; Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980; Hunter et al., 1984) and information processing theory (Hovland and Pritzker, 1957; Anderson and Hovland, 1957;

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives Anderson, 1959, 1971; Hunter et al., 1984; for a more complete review, see National Research Council, 1998). This work often focuses on how attributes of the message, message content, and the sender affect the receiver’s beliefs. Numerous empirical studies provide empirical evidence linking belief change to message content. Some studies suggest that more established beliefs are more difficult to change (Cantril, 1946; Anderson and Hovland, 1957; Hovland, 1972; Danes et al., 1984). Additional studies demonstrate the following (Whittaker, 1967, and Insko, 1967, contain reviews): unless extreme beliefs are associated with more information, they are generally more affected by contradictory information; when neutral messages lead to a belief change, the change is typically that predicted by a discrepancy model; and belief shifts are in the direction of the message for non-neutral messages. Information, unlike a disease, is not simply learned through contact. Information diffusion is not a contagion process but a complex sociocognitive process. The likelihood of the diffusing information affecting behavior is a function of whether those others one comes into contact with know the information (contagion), the extent to which those others have social influence on the receiver, and whether the message about the information is couched to support or disconfirm existing related beliefs. Overall, much of the work that takes this approach to rationality is directed at specifying cognition at both a process and a knowledge level. Thus, issues of representation are as important as issues of process. The recent work on mental models is in this representational vein (Fauconnier, 1985). Additional process questions include: the role of emotions, speed and accuracy of response, and utilization of analogies (such as those used to comprehend time and distance). Much of this work has the potential to impact our understanding of communication and information seeking and usage behavior. However, further research is needed to illuminate this connection. Humans as Deviates from Expected Utility Theory Research in this area has focused on the way in which humans deviate from expected utility theory. Research in the past two decades has resulted in a number of findings about decision making in very context-specific domains. For example, work in this area suggests that individuals view losses and gains differently (Kahneman and Tversky, 1979); that how the information is presented creates a framing effect that then influences the ultimate decision (Tverksy and Kahneman, 1981); that decisions are often made on the basis of regret (i.e., what could have been) instead of the expected benefit (i.e., utility) of an outcome (Bell, 1982; Loonies and Sugden, 1982); that even minimal interaction leads to altruistic behavior (Orbell et al., 1988; Orbell and Dawes, 1993); and so on.

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives These deviations from expected utility theory are often referred to as biases or fallacies. Let us consider four of these: false consensus, representativeness, availability, and false uniqueness. The false consensus bias refers to the fact that most individuals tend to believe that others are like themselves (Dawes and Mulford, 1996; Dawes, 1989, 1990; Orbell and Dawes, 1993). Thus, people tend to overestimate the degree to which their own past behavior, as well as their expected future behavior, is truly diagnostic of other individuals’ future behavior. Consequently, people will often assume agreement even when it does not exist, and so will fail to critically assess new information. The representativeness bias refers to the fact that individuals often make decisions based on the similarity of the current situation (its characteristics and attributes) to a previous situation, rather than objective data (Tversky and Kahneman, 1974). This heuristic can cause individuals to believe in “the law of small numbers.” Thus, people generally believe that random samples will resemble each other and the population more closely than statistical sampling theory would predict (Plous, 1993). When people use this heuristic, they will typically ignore base rate information. A base rate is the relative frequency with which some event is seen in the general population. A consequence is that individuals will make decisions based on what the situation reminds them of, rather than on statistical likelihoods. The availability bias refers to the fact that individuals often make decisions based on what information is most salient. People often assess the “frequency of a class or the probability of an event by the ease with which instances or occurrences can be brought to mind” (Tversky and Kahneman, 1974:1127). This mental shortcut does not necessarily result in a biased judgment. However, it can when the information that is the most available is not the information that is most accurate due, for example, to recency or primacy effects. The false uniqueness effect refers to the fact that individuals often rate themselves as better than others (Fiske and Taylor, 1991). For example, when asked to rate themselves on some task, such as driving ability, most people tend to see themselves as better than average. Most people, when asked to rate their contribution to a group, tend to view themselves as one of the strongest contributors, if not the strongest. This possible overrating of self is seen as related to a need by individuals to think of their abilities as relatively unique (Marks, 1984; Kernis, 1984). An interesting point is that while most individuals see their abilities as unique (and better than average), they see their opinions as shared by others (false consensus). Consequently, for matters of opinion individuals may be less likely to seek information from others simply because they assume they will not learn anything new.

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives Uncertainty and Stress Human beings are not only not rational but most classical models of individual decision making provide little guidance for how people actually use information and make decisions in most settings (Connolly, 1993). The work on individual decision making under stress and uncertainty comes out of both approaches to rationality, and draws on work on decision making in naturalistic settings. Collectively, this work suggests that individual differences and the context are both important determinants of how individuals acquire and use information when faced with uncertainty. Cognitive biases, personal characteristics, and various sources of uncertainty combine to affect the way in which individuals use the information they acquire (Fischoff et al., 1981; MacCrimmon and Wehrung, 1986). Fischoff et al. (1981) suggest that when individuals must make a decision in an uncertain situation, their decision will be affected by: (1) uncertainty about the nature of the problem; (2) difficulties in assessing the facts; (3) difficulties in assessing the values; (4) uncertainty about what other people will do, think, or believe; and (5) difficulties in assessing the quality of the decision. In general, people differ in the way in which they cope with new information and events, particularly those that induce stress (Thoits, 1991). Differences in coping styles cause people to want, and possibly to need, different information when confronted with stressful events (Miller, 1995). Emotional states, such as depression, can alter individuals’ information seeking and giving behavior (Alloy, 1988). An individual’s affective state can impact the extent to which an individual sees a situation as stressful, and stress can alter an individual’s affective state. This complex interaction between stress and affective state in turn impacts how an individual searches and uses information. Moreover, people respond to others, at least in part, at an affective level (Heise, 1979; Heise and McKinnon, 1987; Smith-Lovin, 1987a, 1987b). Thus information is interpreted differently, is likely to be remembered differently, and will be sought differently depending on the affective basis of the interaction. For example, some researchers argue that individuals hold attitudes or beliefs because they meet particular psychological or affective needs (Katz, 1960; Herek, 1987); hence, erroneous beliefs might be held regardless of the amount of information learned because they reduce stress or increase feelings of self-esteem. One of the current theoretical perspectives, naturalistic decision making, argues that individuals make decisions on the fly, often employing analogies with earlier events. Klein (1993), a leading proponent of this theoretical approach, has suggested a model of decision making in which the individual’s first action is to recognize the linkage between the cur-

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives rent event and something previous. This recognition primes the decision process and influences the subsequent outcome. Klein suggests that particularly under time stress, this is the key to the way in which people make decisions. From a naturalistic perspective, reasoning from argument and from case examples are the dominant ways in which individuals use information. From the communication side, research has shown that not attending to the needs of the target audience can reduce the likelihood that they will retain the information provided and decreases the likelihood that they will pass it on. For example, Mita and Simmons (1995), after examining the diffusion of family planning information to young unmarried women in Bangladesh, argued that to be effective the communications needed to pay greater attention to the contraceptive needs of young women. The principle underlying this is that of immediate comprehension (Carley, 1986). The likelihood of a message being comprehended and remembered increases if the message is directly related to information already known by the receiver. Essentially, for most information receivers, to be really effective the information provider needs to make the link for the receiver between the new information and what the consumer already knows and wants to know. This decreases processing time on the part of the receiver and allows them to focus in on the new information. Groups and Cognition Researchers interested in cognition have also examined how being in a group or team affects cognition. Both theoretical and empirical work suggests the existence of information processing effects at the group level (Cannon-Bowers and Salas, 1990; Salas et al., 1994; Innami, 1992; Walsh and Fahey, 1986). This work has had a wide range. Three different issues that have been addressed are particularly important from a diffusion perspective: group think, distributed cognition, and transactive memory. It is often argued that collections of individuals engage in group think (Janis, 1982). Group think is the tendency of groups to converge on ideas and to sanction aberrant ideas in such a fashion that important information may be ignored and erroneous decisions may be made. Groups also tend to polarize; that is, their decisions are more extreme than the average decision of the group members (Pruitt, 1971a, 1971b). Thus, groups tend to make decisions that are much more or much less risky than would the individuals in isolation (Pruitt, 1971a, 1971b). From a diffusion perspective, this means that learning new information in a group setting can cause the individuals to misestimate its importance and either overattend or underattend to the new information. Recent work in this area suggests that these group behaviors may be a function of both the initial distribu-

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives tion of information, beliefs, attitudes, and decisions as well as the underlying network connecting group members (Friedkin and Johnsen, 1990; Friedkin, 1991; Rice, 1993). From a distributed standpoint, groups have an intelligence that is outside of the cognition of the individual members. Accordingly, group intelligence lies, in part, in the way in which information is distributed across group members and the linkages among group members. The work on distributed cognition suggests that groups and organizations as computational units are able to collectively represent and solve problems in ways that go beyond the cognitive abilities, knowledge, and possibly even awareness of the individuals in the group (Hutchins, 1995). The communication structure in the group is seen to influence the computational approach of the group to problems and the resultant decision (Carley and Svoboda, 1996). Transactive memory refers to the ability of groups to have a memory system that exceeds that of the individuals in the group (Wegner, 1987; Wegner et al., 1991; Moreland, in press). Related ideas are joint remembering (Edwards and Middleton, 1986) and group remembering. Research on transactive memory, like that on distributed cognition, relies on the idea that knowledge is stored as much in the connections among individuals as in the individuals. Wegner developed the theory (Wegner, 1987) and an associated computational model (Wegner, 1995) at the dyadic level by drawing on work in computer science. He argues that processing factors that are relevant when linking together computers (such as directory updating, information allocation, and coordination of retrieval) are also relevant when linking together the memories of humans into a group memory. Empirical research suggests that the memory of natural groups is better than the memory of assigned groups even when all individuals involved know the same things (even for groups larger than dyads, Moreland, in press). Further, Moreland et al. (1996, in press) have shown that transactive memory tends to improve group performance. And groups of individuals who train together tend to have better recall of how to approach problems than do groups where the individuals train separately (Liang et al., 1995). Collectively, this body of research suggests that for individuals and especially for the group, knowledge of who knows what may be as important a determinant of group performance as task knowledge. SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND INFORMATION Individual cognition is an important determinant of the way in which individuals acquire and use information. However, as hinted at by the work on transactive memory, cognition is not the sole determinant of

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives information-based behavior. One reason for this is that there is a difference between “reality” and reality as perceived by the individual (Cooley, 1902; Mead, 1962; Festinger, 1954, 1957). Reality as perceived by the individual is often a function of his or her position in the underlying social network. This point is eloquently made by the decades of research on social structure that has repeatedly demonstrated that an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, knowledge, and actions are as much a function of who is known as it is of what is known and that the underlying social structure is critical to the diffusion process (Rapoport, 1953; Katz, 1961; Rogers, 1995). This research has led to a more thorough understanding of the way in which the underlying social network influences individual, group, organizational, and community behavior (Wellman and Berkowitz, 1988; Wellman, 1997). Collectively this work has repeatedly shown the influence of who you know, and the position of the individual in the network, on the individual’s consequent actions. Studies of information diffusion have demonstrated the utility of the social network approach and the value of many of the network-based measures for understanding diffusion (Coleman et al., 1966; Burt, 1973, 1980; Valente, 1995; Morris, 1994; Carley with Wendt, 1991; Friedkin, 1993). These studies suggest that what information the individual has, what decisions the individual makes, what beliefs the individual holds, and how strongly the individual holds a belief are all affected by the individual’s social network. A variety of network effects, such as whether or not the individual is peripheral or central in the network, the number of other individuals communicated with, the strength of the relationship with those other individuals, whether the tie is embedded in a triad, and the symmetry of the relationship, play a role in the way in which individuals acquire and use information. For example, central individuals (those connected to a large number of other individuals) are in a better position to acquire new information (Freeman, 1979; Weenig and Midden, 1991) and are more likely to have access to novel information (Valente, 1995). The higher the level of network cohesion, the higher the level of communication about the issue of concern (Friedkin, 1993). More peripheral individuals may be more likely to act on novel information or to generate innovations (Burt, 1973, 1980; Lin and Burt, 1975). Individuals who are more central may be overconstrained and so unable to act on novel information, particularly if they are embedded in a large number of triadic (Simelian) relations (Krackhardt, 1999a, 1999b). Such individuals are so constrained by being involved in a large number of triadic relations that owing allegiance to all can act for none. From an information diffusion perspective, the literature clearly shows that different factors influence the diffusion of ideas and technologies. For example, institutional constraints (Strang and Meyer, 1993),

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives cost, and network externalities such as how many people use a technology are important determinants of technology adoption (Kraut et al., 1997). However, cost in particular has less to do with the diffusion of information. Herein, the focus is primarily on the diffusion of ideas. Research in this area has a long tradition (Festinger et al., 1948; Allen, 1977; Cole and Cole, 1973; Valente, 1995). Researchers have examined the diffusion of many different types of information, including rumors (Festinger et al., 1948, Festinger et al., 1950), job openings (Granovetter, 1974), scientific information (Price, 1965a, 1965b; Carley, 1990), technological information (Allen, 1977), and information about family planning (Valente et al., 1997). Collectively, this research has led to a number of findings. For example, information flows more quickly in integrated groups (Coleman et al., 1966), but only if the groups are relatively small and have relatively simple cultures (Carley, 1991; Kaufer and Carley, 1994). Individuals are often more willing to seek group-threatening information (such as information about new jobs) from individuals with whom they have little regular contact (weak ties) (Granovetter, 1973, 1974). Altering the communication technology can alter the flow of information and thus the overall performance of the group (Rice, 1994). Whether information flows from one group to another depends on both the degree of interaction within the two groups and the degree of interaction between the two groups (Kaufer and Carley, 1994). Although information diffuses through networks, the likelihood that the information will actually diffuse to a specific individual depends on the number of network ties (Weenig and Midden, 1991). The likelihood that the information will actually diffuse from one group to another, and the speed with which it will diffuse, depends on the heterogeneity of each group and the number of ties or boundary spanners between the two groups (Kaufer and Carley, 1993). The underlying social network influences what information the individual acquires, how that information is used, and the way that information is filtered into terms affecting individual choice. In other words, social networks have both a social learning and a social influence effect (Montgomery and Casterline, 1996). Social learning involves the acquisition of information from others. In this case, the individual’s position in his or her social network, the “who talks to whom,” influences diffusion. The information that is learned might have to do with what new technologies are available, with who uses what technology, or with the health, social, political and economic consequences of various choices. The information need not be accurate and may encompass beliefs. Social influence is the weight of authority, deference, reciprocity, and social conformity pressures that individuals place on each other. The individual’s position in his or her social network and the opinions held by those in that network collectively influence the individual’s opinion (Friedkin and Johnsen, 1990).

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives Recent work on contraceptive use demonstrates the myriad of ways in which the underlying social network affects choice (Entwisle and Godley, 1998). In a study of Cameroonian women, Valente et al. (1997) demonstrated that individuals who were advised to engage in a behavior by their network were more likely to engage in that behavior. Further, an individual’s perception of how his or her network will respond to a situation is an important determinant of the individual’s behavior regardless of whether the individual’s perceptions are accurate (Valente et al., 1997). Nevertheless, although an individual’s network position may affect whether or not the individual hears about an innovation, the position itself may not determine adoption of the innovation. In fact, research on diffusion networks has found mixed support for the claim that network exposure increases adoption (Valente, 1995). A person’s network exposure is the proportion of others in the individual’s personal network that are themselves adopters. Consequently, although network position is perhaps the primary determinant of what information the individual acquires, it is only one of the determinants of how the individual uses that information and what actions are subsequently taken. In terms of information usage, a variety of factors are critical, including personal characteristics, cognitive processing abilities and biases, the individual’s network position, the individual’s perception of his or her network, and the consequent influence of others on one’s actions. In most societies there are multiple types of ties that link individuals (e.g., see Sampson, 1969; Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1939). This is referred to as multiplexity (White et al., 1976). Ties include socioemotional ties such as friendship, and instrumental ties such as advice giving and money lending. Different types of ties are often used to access different types of information. Moreover, individuals receive not just different information, but different types of social support through different ties (Wellman, 1992; Wellman and Wortley, 1990). Such ties have both a direct effect on the individual’s information-gathering ability (changing what information is accessible) and an indirect effect by influencing the degree of social support, which influences the individual’s mental health and affective state. This in turn affects the individual’s propensity to seek information and the way in which information is interpreted once it has been found. One question is whether such multiplexity enhances or constrains the flow of new ideas. The stronger the multiplex of relations that connect two individuals, the more likely they are to find it easy to communicate and to have a host of shared experiences on which to base their communication, and the less likely they are to know information not known by the other. For example, if the individual is seeking out sensitive information, or information not commonly known by the group, then weak ties may be

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives ports this contention. Thus, information diffusion is both affected by and affects what individuals know and whom they know. Cognition and social structure become linked in a dynamic cycle in which the communication of information alters the underlying cognitive and social structures. Thus policies seeking to aid or inhibit the diffusion of particular information need to consider not just the foibles of human cognition, not just the underlying social networks of the relevant individuals, but also the basic dynamic processes through which the social networks and knowledge coevolves. Some theories of the fertility transition take diffusion effects into account. Following Montgomery and Casterline (1996) in the most sophisticated of the diffusion models, both social learning and social influence are considered. When this is done, the models fit the empirical data better and enable an explanation for why fertility choices lag mortality decline. In particular, simple simulation models demonstrate that as the size of individuals’ networks and the extent to which they are influenced by others increases, information converges faster and there is consequent greater homogeneity in choice (Montgomery and Casterline, 1998). However, even in these models the social network is decoupled from learning; that is, the network is treated as static. The brief summary provided in this paper suggests that choice is a function of both the social network and human cognition. At a minimum, this means that the diffusion process can be better characterized by taking into account both what the individual knows and who the individual knows. More than this, however, recent work, both empirical and theoretical, indicates that the social and the cognitive are linked. To make clear the relations, it is worth thinking in terms of four constructs: people, knowledge, location, and choice. This defines a set of networks (see Table 6–1). What this summary has indicated is that each of these networks plays a role in affecting fertility-related behavior. Most studies, however, have considered only a couple of cells in the metamatrix at a time, and kept the others fixed. For example, Montgomery and Casterline (1998) model diffusion TABLE 6–1 Metamatrix of Networks and Choice   People Knowledge Location Choice People Social network Knowledge network Physical network Choice network Knowledge   Information network Community network Decision network Location   Geographic network Voting network Choice   Tradeoffs network

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Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives and choice (thus the knowledge network and choice network) by keeping the social network fixed and ignoring all other networks. The diffusion models that have been used in social and organizational studies have two key advantages over those currently used in fertility studies. First, in some of these models the social network and knowledge network coevolve; neither is taken as fixed. This enables the long-run consequence of policy interventions to be evaluated more completely. Second, in these models the agents are heterogeneous; that is, they vary in terms of their social, knowledge, physical, and choice networks. Human networks are quite heterogeneous. For example, some people cite less than five people they talk to about health matters while others cite dozens. The impact of influence will vary based on the size of their individual networks. Thus, multiagent models that capture this heterogeneity may afford better predictions and more accurate estimates of the impact of policies. Multiagent models where the agents’ interactions are constrained by where they are physically located in space, their social networks, what they already know, the choices they need to make, and the available telecommunication technology hold out a promise for improved theoretical understanding of the diffusion process. REFERENCES Abler, R., J.S.Adams, and R.F.P.Gould 1971 Spatial Organization. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Ajzen, I., and M.Fishbein 1980 Understanding Attitudes and Predicting Social Behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Allen, T.J. 1977 Managing the Flow of Technology: Technology Transfer and the Dissemination of Technological Information Within the R and D Organization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Alloy, L.B., ed. 1988 Cognitive Processes in Depression. New York: Guilford Press. Alstyne, M.v., and E.Brynjolfsson 1995 Communication Networks and the Rise of an Information Elite—Does Communication Help the Rich Get Richer? Unpublished paper presented at the International Conference on Information Systems, December 14–17, Amsterdam. 1996 Wider access and narrower focus: Could the Internet Balkanize science? Science 274(5292):1479–1480. Anderson, N.H. 1959 Test of a model for opinion change. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 59:371–381. 1971 Integration theory and attitude change. Psychological Review 78:171–206. Anderson, N.H., and C.Hovland 1957 The representation of order effects in communication research. In The Order of Presentation in Persuasion, C.Hovland, ed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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