History of Acceptance Research
“There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to carry through than the creation of a new order of things” (Machiavelli, 1513).
The roots of diffusion research extend back to the beginnings of social science in Europe. In the history of religion, as well as in some aspects of culture and folklore, much attention was devoted to the diffusion of new ideas and beliefs within a society (Katz, 1999, p.144). However, it took until the early 20th century for diffusion research to make its way into the scientific tradition. Being one of the forefathers of sociology and social psychology, French lawyer Gabriel Tarde was the first to observe and analyse how new ideas flourished within French society at around 1900. In his influential book “Laws of Imitation” Tarde (1903) dealt with the central question of compatibility: that is, the goodness of fit between the attributes of a diffusing item and the social and psychological attributes of the potential adopter (Katz, 1999, p.150).
One reason why innovation acceptance took so long to be established as a distinct research field was the very lack of commonalities between the many different fields of diffusion studies, ranging from agriculture to linguistics, medicine or psychology. It was only when Everett Rogers (1962) combined the diffusion studies in an interdisciplinary manner and thus developed a common framework that diffusion research was accepted as a research field of its own. Since then, the scope of innovation acceptance research has broadened as more and more disciplines became involved. Early studies mainly focused on rural sociology, investigating the spread of new farming techniques, but soon scholarly interest tailed off somewhat to other disciplines such as communication, public health and marketing. The next wave of acceptance research soon came from another discipline: Psychology. Here are the main steps in the history of acceptance research:
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