Abstract for:Are You Still Listening? The Effect of Inattention on Diffusion in Social Networks

What is the effect of clustering on the speed of diffusion of collective behavior in social networks? One theory suggests that when the contagion is complex, requiring confirmation from multiple sources, clustered networks increase the spread of diffusion because they provide the necessary level of social reinforcement for contagion to occur. In contrast, a competing theory suggests that in the presence of repeated interactions, clustered networks reduce the speed of diffusion so long as a small (but non-zero) probability of simple contagion exists. This is because while small probabilities reduce the time to spread in the short run, transmission eventually leads the diffusion rate to more than double, making up for the time lost. However, while both these theories assume that non-adopters remain susceptible indefinitely, individuals often become inattentive to new ideas after a short period of time. Mechanisms behind this idea include rational inattention, cognitive dissonance and the formation of habits. In this paper, we show that relaxing the assumption of indefinite susceptibility lends support for the theory that clustered networks increase the breadth and speed of diffusion. Without attention, there may not be enough trials for contagion to occurs over weak ties.