Andrew Tam

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What makes an idea spread? Duration? Quality? Loudness?

In my Bioelectricity class this week, we talked about the propagation of electrical signals in the body. In the body, cells transmit action potentials (or "spikes") which propogate along the cell membranes of electrically excitable cells like neurons and muscles. However, these action potentials are only produced if the stimulus is of long enough duration, or of high enough amplitude. If signals are too weak, they instead dissipate as they decay in time and space. I was wondering: is the same true of the real world? If news spreads rapidly, is this reason to believe that the news is of of good quality? Is the spread of news proportional to the quality of it?

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    Feb 23 2012: I had great fun reading made to stick from Dan and Chip Heath ( )

    Spreading ideas are dependent on (according to the accronym they use in the book):


    I feel inclined to agree that those are indeed good principles to think about when you want to spread ideas...
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      Feb 23 2012: agreed - i recommend the following sequence:

      emotional stories are great AND credible if they provide the unexpected - concrete AND simple.

      what do you think?
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      Feb 24 2012: Hey Christophe,

      Those six characteristics indeed seem like the ingredients needed for ideas to spread. I think "controversial" should be added to that list as well. For some reason, people like to argue!

      Do you think there is a similar set of principles for people? Maybe the types of people the idea gets spread to also determines how far the idea will get spread.
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        Feb 24 2012: As for people, I would reffer to Nicholas Christakis talk:

        The networked people spread more and faster. (You can identify them by Klout for example)

        Other than that, I would think characteristics as charisma, leadership and popularity are signs that a person is influential.

        though I don't have a real set of principles/characteristics/personality traits in mind.
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          Feb 25 2012: Thx for the tipp - great talk, but you are right: we rather learn about the characterics of a group than a person.

          Nicholas Christakis inspires to modify the question: what does the network to make an idea spread?

          And of course as TEDys we all know at least part of the answer and have experience. Nicholas should research us TEDys... would be great to see!
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          Feb 25 2012: Thanks for that awesome TED talk! I had never really thought about it before, but I think its amazing how idea spreading finds some of its roots in our genetics!

          Many of the points discussed in that talk have also been discussed here. Firstly, it reinforces the impact of emotions on the spread of ideas. Secondly, we see that the content of the idea does not matter as much as the network of friends that are spreading it.

          The talk also references this "multicentric epidemic." Ideas don't have to blossom from one point of origin. The same idea can have its roots widely spread throughout the country, and through the network of people it is interconnected through, the idea will spread throughout those untouched areas.

          Of course you should go watch this talk yourself, I don't think I did it enough justice. Thanks again for sharing!
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    Feb 22 2012: it seems like for an idea to spread it has to have a lot of potential at its berth; that is, it has to relevant enough to grab peoples attention. then, once it has peoples attention, it has to be intriguing enough to convince people to further research the topic and spread the word among their peers. it seems like the most effective way of spreading information that is "true" is by word of mouth through face-to-face communication
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      Feb 23 2012: Exactly Kieran! Relevancy!
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      Feb 23 2012: Hey Kieran,

      I agree! Ideas spread by word of mouth and face to face communication always seem to be more credible. It seems that the further along an idea propagates through mediums such as the internet, the more the idea gets skewed and distorted.
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    Feb 27 2012: Hi Andrew - I go with you that loudness is not quality of an idea. Spreading ideas - for how long to last and to endure opposition and change?

    My experience is that loud ideas with quick success are not the one which will last for 200 years. democracy never had a quick success.... and the internet needed some 20 years of pre-development before its break though came asf asf

    My explanation is a learning in institutional economics: personal incentives are the motives and attractors to engage and to take on an idea - and thus spreading as a person. To discover that an idea has an incentive / advantage for me - that can take awhile.

    Curious enough: If you are being told on TV that such and such idea is good for you - what do you do? You distrust and you are can easily see that mass media is not the solution to spreading ideas... personal networks of similiar minded people like TED or Dog-Lovers are more likely to generate the trust between persons - to make them spread and share ideas...
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      Feb 28 2012: Hey Bernd,

      Maybe I'm kind of gullible, but I like to trust the things I see on TV. Of course if something just sounds ridiculous and too good to be true, its going to go over my head, but there are plenty of ideas that have been presented via mass media that seem credible.

      Suppose most people are distrustful of the mass media: doesn't this give us reason to do our own research to figure out what is true? I think mass media does a great job with spreading ideas, or at least planting the seeds for an idea to be spread, regardless how correct or incorrect the ideas are. If we don't believe it, we will try to seek the truth, and if we do believe it, we might spread the word.
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        Feb 28 2012: This question reminds me of a concept in my signals class.

        Two basic types of signals are digital signals and analog signals. Digital signals only have values at discrete moments in time, while analog signals are valued at every moment in time. One way of characterizing the way that a system will respond to a signal is to test its impulse response, or the way the system responds to a short pulse at the input. Analog systems tend to have infinite impulse responses, meaning that the response lasts for infinite time, while digital systems tend to have finite impulse responses.

        If you'll pardon the electrical engineering jargon, I swear there's a metaphor for the spread of ideas through society in here somewhere. I think that discrete, digital signals are perhaps like ideas that seem to spread in discrete jumps, like through individual letters, articles, or broadcasts. This type of idea spreading is distinct from word-of-mouth, which I liken more to an analog system, in which the definition of each measurement is infinitely more refined. It is perhaps this resolution that carries the information out to infinity.
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    Feb 26 2012: I believe that longevity and impact of an idea is largely based on timing. I have seen examples of a great idea which launched with little interest only to come around again and become a hit. I think the recently trendy term 'Zeitgeist' might be the nearest useful concept to explain what I mean.
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      Feb 28 2012: Stuart,

      I have read many posts and what you state basically brings up the main point. So many of the different ways discussed all come down to timing.

      There are so many variables to account for in order to spread an idea, and in the end to make it spread best you must take advantage of the timing to optimize your idea being spread.

      Zeitgeist fits this idea perfectly!
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        Feb 28 2012: I think you guys are so right that the main variable in whether an idea propagates is the timing. In fact, it kind of goes back and mirrors the basis for Andrew's question. When we're talking about action potentials, timing is everything. Action potentials have a refractory period during which no amount of stimulation can produce another potential. I think ideas are very much like that. If society is completely unwelcoming to a new idea, the idea itself will never grow, let alone spread and propagate. But once we have that initial spark, there are a million other factors that can influence its development.
  • Feb 25 2012: Andrew, perhaps you are familiar with the Markov chain statistical methodology. That may be helpful to you. Perhaps it is the truth of an idea that makes it spread. For example, it seems obvious that democracy is a better form of government than monarchy. Since the history of America has demonstrated that, thanks to improved communication, the world is beginning to catch on to the idea. Some dictators may still be hanging on, but it is clear that their end is near. Power to the positive. I believe the most important quality of an idea is the truth of it. Truth has power. Come to think of it, I may be wrong about that. When I think about the nonsense many religions contain, I observe that truth is not their main concern. In fact one of the large religions of the world tells their members that their God wants them to lie to nonmembers of the religion. Perhaps what makes their ideas spread is brainwashing children from the day they are born to believe what the brainwashed adults want them to believe. These religions are more concerned with controlling people, than respecting their members to have their own beliefs and experiences. Oh, well. Thank you, Andrew, for causing me to think about this issue. Happy Today.
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      Feb 25 2012: Hey Rhona,

      I think you bring to light a very interesting issue. I agree that truth has power, and that those things which are true tend to spread more easily. However, truth itself is difficult to work with because it can sometimes be relative - we may think something is true because we agree with it and would like to think it true, regardless of whether or not it actually is true. For example, suppose some recent study showed that watching television improves health. There are going to be people that say, alright I love watching television, and then spread the word to friends. And then there will be those that think the idea kind of silly, and in turn won't spread it around.

      Essentially, this seems to boil down to not the truth in the ideas, how we as people react to them, and the truth that we perceive in them. Like Fritzie's comment about rumors - in order for them to spread, it doesn't really matter that they are true. Those who think that the rumor could potentially be true are likely to spread the word, while those that don't are not.
      • Feb 25 2012: Andrew, Your statement about tv and truth. It is possible that watching tv is healthy for certain types of people and unhealthy for others, depending on what type of physical or psychological issues they have. If truth were more highly valued in our society, perhaps it would be used more. I believe that, if everyone sought and expressed truth on a regular basis, that in itself would be a powerful and quick solution to approximately 100% of the world's problems. I believe in truth, love and joy as the key to health, happiness, success and all good things for everyone.
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      Feb 24 2012: Yup, that's very true; there doesn't really seem to be a relation between spread of news and its quality -- this seems to vary on a case by case basis. However, I do think that this is true: that the ideas we seek are of greater quality than those that are just blasted to us through media.

      Would you say that we play a larger role in spreading an idea than the idea itself does?
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    Feb 22 2012: hello Andrew,

    An idea is not an fire to be spread is just an force that attracts idea fascinates people because of its awesome content that cannot be countered with any disapproval.........
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      Feb 23 2012: Hey Aditya,

      You make an interesting point. It sounds like you are saying people gravitate towards ideas as opposed to ideas gravitating towards people. What is it about the idea that makes it so fascinating to begin with though?
    • Feb 27 2012: I agree that the quality of “loudness”, or being immediately impactful is key. When something unexpected happens, like a car crash on the street, people tend to stop and stare since it is not something they are used to seeing in real life. It must be something interesting to the observer. A new scientific discovery may be hard to grasp for most, and the effort might not be made to consume it and propagate it to others. In Ramachandrian’s related talk, he speaks about mirror neurons allowing early civilization to advance their skills quickly. Making fire and learning language was probably interesting enough to most then so that those ideas spread very quickly. Loud, interesting news is not always quality though. We need to discern that for ourselves.
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    Feb 28 2012: Hey Andrew!!!!!!

    I waited until the last minute to post for two reasons: 1. It slipped my mind that I also have to respond to yours even though we discussed it thoroughly offline and 2. It would be best to observe how our similar questions would spread.

    Just from this week’s observation, I feel that an idea spreads through group effort and empathy. I stated in my conversation that “idea production requires a group effort in which we all stimulate production and discussion like with neurons firing. The only way you can measure a signal or response is if multiple neurons within the same area are firing not just one because of all the noise that can distort a single low amplitude signal.” This applies for how ideas spread not only in the production. It takes many people to empathize and start discussions to propagate ideas. I have always focused on how I relate to an idea and made it very personal but the group dynamic is so important.
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    Feb 28 2012: I would say rapid news equals important news. Velocity proportional to importance.

    I think if you see the Earth as a "body" with it's signals as news, there's one thing that isn't in the body, that exists on Earth, and that's the ability for human to fight for it. If you really wanna spread an idea in reality, it's all about your will to spread it.

    How badly you want it out, how good you are at making it a big deal, and talking about it to as many people as possible. Schools, lectures, medias, etc. That's something I don't yet know if the body can do : Take a weak signal (Here representing an idea that isn't paid attention to) amplify it (make it commercialised) and then reality has a factor I'm not sure if the body has: The will and act of spreading it, eventhough it isn't a "strong signal"
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    Feb 28 2012: As much as I’d like to say that it is quality that people are interested in, I think the loudness of an idea Is what makes an idea spread. An equivalent is the explosion of viral videos. There is a reason why a video of a woman falling over in a tub of grapes while making jam has more views than a violin concerto at Carnegie Hall. As beautiful as a concerto is, there is something about watching a woman fall into a tub of grapes. It makes people laugh and then immediately send the link around to their friends, and chances are, the friends watch the entirety of the video. The loudness factor is entrenched in the effect it has on people. It has a distinct, drastic effect of laughter and happiness that causes it to spread. An idea that directly stimulates, quite often with loudness and “brightness,” is often what gets spread.
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    Feb 28 2012: I found this talk to be especially relevant:

    Here Kevin Allocca explains why youtube videos go viral: 1) tastemakers, 2) communities of participation, and 3) unexpectedness.

    As an example of a tastemaker, he describes Jimmy Kimmel's tweet of the Double Rainbow video and how this tweet is the reason for a sudden spike in views. Similarly, Rebecca Black's Friday "sprouted up out of nowhere" months after the upload. His reason for this is also explained by groups of tastemakers sharing the video on social media sites. He also gives examples of community participation and unexpectedness as vehicles for making youtube videos go viral.

    "these are characteristics of a new kind of media and a new kind of culture, where anyone has access and the audience defines the popularity"
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      Feb 28 2012: When I read the statement the first question I asked myself was exactly that. Why did Rebecca Black's video "Friday" spread like wild fire, while there are plenty of other youtube videos that go unnoticed. Now with modern media bringing news to the public at faster rates then was capable previously it is easier than ever for ideas to spread. However, even so, there is no formula for spreading an idea as if there were, advertising agencies would all use it. I agree with many of the other comments on this thread as to the fact that timing is a major contributor to whether an idea spreads. More specifically whether or not the audience or a critical mass is ready intellectually to accept what you are going to tell them. For example, historically, especially in the sciences, there has been a resistance to new schools of thought that challenge any accepted model. Often times years pass before an old model can be replaced by a new way of thinking as usually it is at that point that the evidence is irrefutable and the idea has gained enough support to convert the entire scientific community to the new way of thinking.
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    Feb 28 2012: A thing is true in so far it is knowable (Ontological Truth). Truth is intellect in conformity with reality. The quality of an idea which comes with the truth makes an idea to spread.
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    Feb 28 2012: I'm convinced ideas spread quickly because of the perceived quality or relevance to both broadcasters and recipients. I also think that mass media outlets like radio, tv etc have the ability to influence and perhaps even skew our perception of what ideas are the most credible, relevant and impactful.
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    Feb 28 2012: If I had to choose one out of the three, it would have to be quality. People are interested, enjoy, and are willing to put time into things that they are not accustomed to. This depends on the originality, creativity, and personal factors that vary between people. However, all three definitely do play a role. The overarching theme in how ideas spread, however, is the timing. This can make or break whether the idea flourishes or is never again revisited.

    A perfect example here is WikiLeaks. In a time when the world was unstable, and trust in government was a major issue, Assange was able to get the whole world on board in uncovering hidden truths, something which could not be fathomed beforehand. Although WikiLeaks is high quality material, and it was “loud,” I think timing was the biggest factor in how quickly it spread.
  • Feb 28 2012: I do like to believe that loudness and quality are relative. If it isn't intended for that particular neuron or muscle, then I doubt it would be loud or high quality enough.

    I believe this to be true in the real world also. If news hits me and I don't care about it or I can't do anything about it from where I am, then it wouldn't be as loud to me as it would be to someone who is nearer or someone who can do anything about it.

    If I were to move my finger, signals are sent to those particular muscles and even if they reach my muscles for moving my toes, it wouldn't move them because the signal wouldn't be loud enough.
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    Feb 28 2012: Loudness at the onset, but in the long run the quality does help in the long run. One important factor is from where it originates ? If from the developed Nations, it spreads faster, people lap it up, and on second thought and on reflection they examine it, and here the quality counts for it to sustain for longer period.
    • Feb 28 2012: To synthesize Bernd's and your points, it seems that the loudness of an idea determines the speed of its propagation and the quality determines its steady-state acceptance. For example, as Bernd points out, democracy was not quickly accepted, but now, in much of the developed world, it is the prevalent system.
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    Feb 27 2012: Some others:

    It's ability to find a receptive audience to resonate.
    It's ability to be communicated easily
    It's value to the audience - frequency of relevance and degree of relevance
    It's compatibly with media and channels of communication.
    It's simplicity, it's label, or bringing the complex to its more easily communicated essence . Think Big Bang = simple explanatory tag for a very complex concept
    The language. Suggest English may propagate more than some obscure local dialect.
    All the tipping point principles.
    How it makes people feel when they retransmit
    How people feel when they hear the idea - does it embed.
  • Feb 27 2012: May be every idea has a sensational intensity. It may be both good or bad but it should be able to create an intense sensation in the minds of the receiver . Since all of us are socially connected with people whom we know share our beliefs or just share it for the sake of passing something that we felt intensely about, it gets spread. The susceptibility of different persons also differ and hence stories that excite a sports fan may not work on someone more interested in something like consciousness biology and so on. So we also need to refine spreading amongst what category of interest groups.
    The sharing which has become so powerful with the advent of the web, things like the tamil Kolaveri song has seen such violent spread it took most by storm. There is so much peer pressure also in subscribing to a “cult”.
  • Feb 27 2012: it depends on if you would believe the idea would solve a problem which you recognise from your own life.

    If theres an 'idea worth spreading' that's none of my business -> I won't spread it.
    If theres an idea I don't believe will solve the problem -> I won't spread it.
    If the problem solves something that I'm not bothered by -> I won't spread it.

    Just try to figure it out by going through all different ideas that you don't want to spread.... the only way for things to spread is when others also believe it is worth spreading
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      Feb 28 2012: Hey RIchard, I would have to agree with you completely! If I don't believe in something I'm not going to spread it. This fits into the whole idea of relatability - that we are likely to spread and believe in an idea if we can connect to it at the personal level.
  • Feb 27 2012: I think we could look at two things:

    - how ideas worth spreading do spread
    - how very bad ideas, not worth spreading still spread

    And then look at what aspects are shared by those two perspectives.
    I believe that good and bad ideas can spread fast by:

    - being presented by a charismatic person
    - when it is cheap, easy to apply and promises fast positive results
    -when it is presented at the right time, when people need it... I believe that there are many great avant gardists ideas that are trying to spread but time will have to pass until people are ready and it becomes viral.
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    Feb 26 2012: Three things are required for an idea to spread:

    Novelty - The idea must be original in some way.
    Relevance - The idea must amplify the moment.
    Harmony - The idea must be symbiotic, i.e. beneficial for both the messengers and the recipients.
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      Feb 27 2012: Hi James,

      I agree with your parameters for idea to be worth spreading. I believe they can be categorized into the quality aspect to makes an idea spread. A idea that has good quality basically will have long duration and speaks loud for itself.
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    Feb 26 2012: 1. RELEVANCE

    If i have a brilliant idea about how to capture simba, the lion that has been devouring our goats, am sure none of you will read past the heading. Same for some one who will post some thing that i feel has no relevance to me. that chain hits a dead end with me.
    The more relevant the idea the more receptive i will be and the more likely i am to spread that idea.

    Well if i made a ted talk or posted my brilliant idea here, i would be using an effective means of communication but targeting the wrong audience. thereby making this particular mode ineffective. a smoke signal would be much more effective.
  • Feb 26 2012: Uniqueness, importance, potential and certainty.
    How this idea is different to other ideas.
    How important is it to implement this idea
    How much potential does the idea have
    and how certain does the presenter feel about it working.
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      Feb 28 2012: Hey Mike,

      Thanks for contributing! I'm glad you brought up that last point. It seems that all your other points are dependent on that last one: If someone cannot present an idea clearly or confidently to begin with, then those other points may not even matter. On their own, however, those other points definitely factor into the spreading of an idea.
      • Feb 28 2012: That's true, how can you influence someone if you haven't been yourself?
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    Feb 25 2012: I think what makes an idea spread is ultimately quality: how 'true' it is, and also how timeless it is

    There are ideas that have been around forever--religion, love, friendship...That's why Shakespeare has always been (and I think will always be) popular-- his ideas never get old.

    In terms of how 'true' it is, even though I don't believe that anything can be proved to be absolutely true, there are things that everyone experiences, and the truth in something develops out of that. Ultimately I think an ideas' merit is what makes it propagate-- loudness doesnt matter-- in fact, loudness often goes ignored.
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    Feb 25 2012: I think what makes an idea spread is it's gravity, timing and how relatable it is. E=mc2 spread and stuck because it was true, useful and it affected a lot of people. The Jeremy Lin phenomena spread because he provided a spark for a desperate basketball franchise (timing/gravity) and people could relate to his story.

    Rumors have no gravity and "decay in time and space". They are usually unrelatable and have no gravity.

    And how are relatable and relatability not words?? Using them anyway...
    • Feb 28 2012: You bring up a good point about the “relatability” of an idea. When I read your comment initially, I was inclined to disagree with it. My first thought was that some ideas (negative ones, especially) are not relatable to the people who are forced to accept them. For example, consider communism in the old Soviet Union. It was an idea that the entire population was expected to subscribe to, under threat of incarceration and physical violence. However, the citizens themselves certainly did not relate to the tenets of communism. The general population merely pretended to support the oppressive regime to avoid incarceration.

      After some further thought, though, I came to the conclusion that a person can relate to an idea without agreeing with it. That is, due to the series of circumstances surrounding the idea, the idea can become relevant and significant to a person who would not normally be opposed to it. I suppose one could term this phenomenon “forced relatability.” Or, to make a film reference, perhaps “inception” is the appropriate term.
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    Feb 25 2012: In ancient times, ideas went as far as the demagogue could shout. This changed in the 20th century. Amplified by technology, Hitler and other technocrats extended the traditional range of the demagogue with terrifying results. The answers are all around you.
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    Feb 24 2012: An idea spreads well if it rewards the carrier when he spreads it.
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    Feb 23 2012: Nowadays, with so many information brought to us by the mass media we have lost sensibility.
    For example: almost every day we watch on TV images of tragedies around the world. After we see so much of that it comes to a point when we don´t get so shocked, although we know that is horrible what we are watching.
    That´s what happens with stories and ideas. These days, it has to be something unusual and uncommon to draw attention.
    It has to capture attention, even if it is for just a especific audience.
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      Feb 24 2012: Hey Joao,

      You are definitely right about the mass media. Its just bad news after bad news after bad news, and for some reason, this stuff attracts everyone's attention! Does science pertain to a smaller sized audience? Maybe there is some kind of relationship between marketability and kinds of ideas that get spread.
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        Feb 25 2012: Hi Andrew,

        "Does science pertain to a smaller sized audience?"

        Asking to your question: Unfortunately, it does.
        People get a kind of education through TV wich is getting even more futile day after day. Therefore, people get "educated" according to TV and their preferences get shaped in base of what they see.
        Science isn´t that much entertaining (although is very interesting) so TV stations just brings commercial stuff, that serves their (TV stations) interests - gain audiences.
        People get used to that type of programmes and starts to rejects what they don´t usually watch - science. It´s a vicious cycle.

        Plus, it´s hard to a person that barely reads books to watch something related to science.

        I´ve seen very interesting and bombastic news about science that have been shown just for a day.

        It´s really a shame that to be good news, isn´t enough that the news is just good and interesting.
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          Feb 25 2012: We discovered meteorites in the antarctic with fragments of DNA in it which couldn't have come from Earth. We found a serious indicator that life was seeded on earth billions of years ago by asteroid bombardment. Where were the news reports? I saw nothing on TV. And yet, we all know Whitney Houston died, how she died and an enormous amount of energy has gone into this solitary death.

          Modern media is a sham.
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      Feb 26 2012: "Nowadays, with so many information brought to us by the mass media we have lost sensibility."
      What would be the preferred reaction to such horrible events? What should we do instead? Is the issue at hand to reduce the information we receive? Do we prefer to live in ignorance? Or do you think we should be affected by such news? I agree that we should aim to do something to prevent man-made tragedies, but natural tragedies are a necessity in order to prevent overpopulation. And in regards to our reaction to man-made tragedies, I think our reaction should not be that of sympathy or sadness, but to question ourselves: “what can we do to contribute and prevent such tragedies in the future?” If we choose to ignore these tragedies, then it is only fair to be treated the same way if we are part of such tragedies.
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        Feb 26 2012: No news = No business for media !
        I have seen the most despicable things get airtime on media. and they perpetuate and dwell on extreemly inferior things making a big deal out of nothing. read desperation.this coupled with the fact that most of these companies are owned by the same group of people advancing a particular agenda.
        I think that its incumbent on us to choose media that not only keeps us informed but also adds value to our lives.
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        Feb 26 2012: I'm not saying that we should ignore those tragedies. In fact, I even told that we know how horrible they are.
        I´m saying that mass media brings us lot of useless, futile and sometimes stupid information. With so much information we can´t filter what´s important and what´s worth our attention. And so, often, important and interesting news goes unnoticed.
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          Feb 28 2012: Additionally, we don't really get the chance to filter information as media has already done the filtering for us. Thus, we are left with already filtered information to try to pick from, meaning we are exposed to an even smaller subset off all the information that is really out there.

          To make things worse, many people probably think that the news presents us with the most "important" information, and therefore don't go digging around for information themselves.

          The mass media is primarily how ideas spread, but the mass media also fails to spread much scientific news, such as the discovery mentioned by Spencer.

          Perhaps we should figure out how to get science a bigger spot in the news reel? Ideas in the news reel are already the filtered ones that have been chosen as "good ideas." Thus, the mere presence of science in the mass media may be a huge factor in getting the ideas to spread.
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          Feb 28 2012: It’s especially true that science is often digested for the general public by the media and unfortunately, the information is often sensationalized. Oftentimes, as mentioned in Ben Goldacre’s TED talk ( on battling bad science, there is a lot of misinformation out there that most people are not even aware of. I almost feel that, unfortunately, it is the dramatic interpretation of a research study rather than the actual finding that is being spread. In short, it’s what the media perceives that the public will relate to that will initially spread like wildfire.
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    Feb 23 2012: Could it be "WHO" is spreading the idea?
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      Feb 24 2012: That's a key point Mary! Hearing an idea come from a role-model would definitely make me more inclined to believe and spread the idea amongst others. On the other hand, if I hear from someone who I have no reason to believe is credible, chances are I won't spread the word.
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    Feb 23 2012: It seems as though the more distant communication gets, the more distorted it gets because you can't completely convey emotions except through face-to-face conversation.
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      Feb 24 2012: Yup, I agree Kieran, that's definitely one way for ideas to get distorted, but it seems more accidental. I feel like most of the distortion that occurs often occurs intentionally, as in the case of making a story more interesting in order to attract more viewers.
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    Feb 23 2012: When you ask whether it is the quality of an idea that determines whether it spreads or how far, I think it is not the quality in the way most people consider that term. There have been ideas that did not spread because they were before their time. On the other end, rumors (true or false) about celebrities have a way of spreading widely without satisfying the usual definition of quality.
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      Feb 23 2012: Hey Fritzie,

      You make a good point about rumors, and how they seem to satisfy a different kind of "quality." How do you think we can give scientific research the same kind of "quality," which would allow it to spread just as rapidly as rumors?
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        Feb 23 2012: As you live in the US, you know that at least here, scientific information also spreads easily if it is on subjects that interest people and can be described in terms people understand. For example, findings that appear to offer avenues to better health or that suggest threats to human health, often make their way rapidly into popular news.
        One challenge with scientific information is how it is interpreted or described to capture people's interest. This can include magnification of potential threats, such as doomsday scenarios with little credibility among experts related to the large hadron collider, or in the same area of science, the labeling of the Higgs boson as the "God particle," when it has nothing to do with religion.
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          Feb 24 2012: Ya, it seems to be all in the way that we twist things. Labeling ideas with names that appeal to all sorts of people kind of conceals the idea, as people are struck by the name first. This is definitely a good way to bait people into reading an idea that they might have otherwise not been interested in.
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          Feb 25 2012: I have the experience with labeling also - my learning: choose a label which emotionally communicates. First curiosity or anger, than facts or informations.

          Of course one should not misuse it - like "god particle".

          In Germany we have a large debate if Facebook is such a misleading label... it is more like "faceselling" or "privacy-sales". Still I am a heavy user of Facebook, please do not misunderstand me

          The label "facebook" is in my view 99% of the success of spreacing this social network. We interviewed some artists also on this, Transmediale Berlin:
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    Feb 23 2012: It has to be free,if not it has to be cheap.
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      Feb 23 2012: Hey Ken,

      This sounds kind of like an accessibility issue; if the news isn't easily accessible by the public, chances are it won't spread so rapidly, or even at all.