GABRIEL TARDE. The Laws of Imitation. Summary by Dmitry Matveev

Author: Dmitry Matveev7/8/2022


This is a summary of Gabriel Tarde's book The Laws of Imitation. We are looking to solve modern problems in public relations; therefore, we structured theses — so they would be easy to use in practice. 

When it comes to promotion, there is a lot of talks about marketing, targeting, SMM, and so on. However, very few people say anything about the meaning of PR-messages conveyed to the audience. The summary will help fill this gap.

This is the result of the collective work of me and my colleagues from LIVREZON Publisher Author's Club: A.V. Guyvan, I.M. Lebedev, S.V. Semenkov, E.A. Stadukhin, and V.S. Shibanov. Special thanks to A.V. Guvan and E.A. Stadukhin, who added more current examples to the summary. I express my special thanks to the chief editor A. A. Ryzhachkov, who suggested this book to us.

Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904)


Progress in society lies in innovations: ideas, discoveries, achievements, inventions, and so many other things. Immediately after a new innovation emerges, there appear many followers who begin to imitate it.

Thus, the very process of social development consists of two elements: the emergence of innovations and their imitation (compare with the later scientific analogues of such concepts as "paradigm shift" and "normal science found in Thomas Kuhn well-known book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).

The level of society organization in this process increases; the level of progressive aspirations decreases. The goal is to remove neurosis of the new and incomprehensible, that is, to achieve complete confidence and firm beliefs.

Usually, society reactions to new innovations are rather inadequate. So we can distinguish two fundamentally different ways to consolidate an innovation in society: 

  • replacement of an old invention with a new one (if there was a contradiction between them);
  • accumulation of innovations (if there is no contradiction).

Imitation is actually copying. And it is ruled by certain laws, which can be identified. 

This process of imitation of ideas and innovations is largely guided by social stereotypes (for details see W. Lippman Public Opinion).

QUOTE 1. Every natural phenomenon is seen through the prisms and coloured glasses of a mother tongue, or national religion, or ruling prejudice, or scientific theory, from which the most unbiassed and unimpassioned observation cannot emancipate itself without self-destruction. Moreover, every organic want is experienced in the characteristic form which has been sanctioned by surrounding example. The social environment, in defining and actualising this form, has, in truth, appropriated it.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.44

Imitation is a constantly spreading process. Nothing prevents the contemporary artist from imitating ancient works. The more the idea spreads, the greater are the chances that it will contradict with opposing ideas. These collisions produce various social effects.

The laws of imitation and the social effects associated with them are the subjects of this summary. They can be useful for:

  • promotion of ideas;
  • management of groups of people: for example, through a separation people, when different groups imitate different patterns.

If you’d like to dive deeply into the topic and understand the patterns of imitation processes, please proceed the reading. Parts I and II are mostly dedicated to these things. 

If you are interested in the effects, you can skip those parts and go directly to Part III of the summary.

Part I. The Laws of Imitation: The Personality Level

The first three laws describe imitation at personality level or at the level of individual behavior. Although, one can and should use them to explain social phenomena and to influence the behavior of social groups.

Respect is a sign of imitation at the level of personality and in relation to another person.

QUOTE 2. Respect is neither unmixed fear nor unmixed love, nor is it merely the combination of the two, although it is a fear which is beloved by him who entertains it. Respect is, primarily, the impression of an example by one person upon another who is psychologically polarised. Of course we must distinguish the respect of which we are conscious from that which we dissemble to ourselves under an assumed contempt. But taking this distinction into account, it is evident that whomsoever we imitate we respect, and that whomsoever we respect we imitate or tend to imitate. There is no surer sign of a displacement of social authority than deviations in the current of these examples. The man or the woman of the world who reflects the slang or undress of the labourer or the intonation of the actress, has more respect and deference for the person copied than he or she is himself or herself aware. Now what society would last for a single day without the general and continuous circulation of both the above forms of respect?

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.86-87


Gabriel Tarde's book The Laws of Imitation

Law 1. Internal cause and external expression. 

On the personality level, the reason for imitation is internal and always related to the desire to be like the object of imitation. This is the root of the desire to imitate. And the expression of imitation, as a rule, is external. Thus, in imitation, people copy the expression rather than the essence.

— Instead of operating like a successful person, one imitates its attributes. For example, a man buys an expensive car he cannot afford.
— Instead of taking the same path and working as hard as a great scientist, they imitate his extravagant manner of speaking. 

They imitate certain appearances and expressions and believe it will help them to be exactly like a successful businessman or a great scientist.

QUOTE 3. Imitation, then, contrary to what we might infer from certain appearances, proceeds from the inner to the outer man. It seems at first sight as if a people or a class began to imitate another by copying its luxury and its fine arts before it became possessed of its tastes and literature, of its aims and ideas, in a word, of its spirit. Precisely the contrary, however, occurs.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.199


QUOTE 4. This progress from within to without, if we try to express it more precisely, means two things: (1) That imitation of ideas precedes the imitation of their expression. (2) That imitation of ends precedes imitation of means. Ends or ideas are the inner things, means or expressions, the outer. Of course, we are led to copy from others everything which seems to us a new means for attaining our old ends, or satisfying our old wants, or a new expression for our old ideas; and we do this at the same time that we begin to adopt innovations which awaken new ideas and new ends in us. Only these new ends, these needs for novel kinds of consumption, take hold of us and propagate themselves in us much more readily and rapidly than the aforesaid means or expressions.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.207


QUOTE 5. This priority along all lines of the needs for consumption over those for production may be deduced as an important corollary from the course of imitation ab interioribus ad exteriora, i. e., from the thing signified to the sign. Here the sign is the productive act which actualises the idea and aim of the thing which is to be consumed. This idea and this aim are the hidden content of which the consumed product is the form. Now, in periods of change, the form, as we know, always lags behind the content.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. PP.331-332

Corollary of Law 1. Since imitation is based on the external, products of imitation are made faster (because they are just copies) and they are immediately produced in complete development. Imitators just miss process of development itself. They don’t pay any attention to it. 

QUOTE 6. There is still another important difference. In imitation, the product is generally in a state of complete development; it is spared the fumblings of the first workman. This artistic kind of process is consequently much more rapid than the vital process; embryonic phases and phases of infancy and adolescence are suppressed. And yet life itself does not ignore the art of abbreviation. For if, as is thought, embryonic phases repeat (with certain restrictions) the zoological and paleontological series of preceding and allied species, it is clear that this individual recapitulation of a prolonged race elaboration must have become marvellously succinct at last. But during the course of the generations which pass under our own observation, periods of gestation and growth are not noticeably curtailed. The only fact that can be determined in this direction is the reproduction of hereditary traits or diseases at an earlier age in the offspring than in the parent. Let us compare this slight advance with the progress of our manufactures. Our watches, pins, textiles, all our goods, are manufactured in one-tenth or one-hundredth part of the time which they originally required. As for vibration, in what an infinitesimal degree it shares in this faculty of acceleration!

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.35

This must be taken into account when promoting your ideas. The idea is very likely to be distorted, simplified, and only its external attributes will be understood and copied. 

One of the vivid examples of it are stereotypes around artificial intelligence. They boil down to the idea that there will be either hell on earth after the rise of the machines, or heaven where machines and humans will work together in harmony.

QUOTE 7. Too many debates over the future of AI overlook the potential beauty of machines and humans working in tandem. Our perception of AI seems trapped somewhere between the haunting voice of the murderous rogue computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the friendlier voices of today’s personal digital assistants—Cortana, Siri, and Alexa. We can daydream about how we will use our suddenly abundant spare time when machines drive us places, handle our most mundane chores, and help us make better decisions. Or we can fear a robot-induced massive economic dislocation. We can’t seem to get beyond this utopia/dystopia dichotomy.

I would argue that the most productive debate we can have about AI isn’t one that pits good vs. evil, but rather one that examines the values instilled in the people and institutions creating this technology.

Nadella S. Hit Refresh. Published in Great Britain by William Collins in 2017. Chapter 8.

Law 2. Imitation is a mutual process. 

Imitation is always mutual. That is, both participants of interaction always imitate each other, but to a different extent.

QUOTE 8. But, to return, why should we really marvel at the one-sided, passive imitation of the somnambulist? Any act of any one of our fellows inspires us who are lookers-on with the more or less irrational idea of imitation. If we at times resist this tendency, it is because it is neutralised by some antagonistic suggestions of memory or perception. Since the somnambulist is for the time being deprived of this power of resistance, he can illustrate for us the imitative quiescence of the social being in so far as he is social, i. e., in so far as he has relations exclusively with his fellows and, especially, with one of his fellows.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.79

Law 3. Interference of imitation factors

The combination of related imitation factors leads to either a dramatic increase or a dramatic decrease in imitation.

QUOTE 9. In the same way, when two beliefs or two desires, or a belief and a desire, in short, when two social things (in the last analysis all social facts are beliefs or desires under the different names of dogmas, sentiment, laws, wants, customs, morals, etc:), have for a certain time travelled their separate roads in the world by means of education or example, i. e., of imitation, they often end by coming into mutual contact. In order that their encounter and interference may be really psychological and social, co-existence in the same brain and participation in the same state of mind and heart is not only necessary, but, in addition, one must present itself either in support of, or in opposition to the other, either as a principle, of which the other is a corollary, or as an affirmative, of which the other is the negative. As for the beliefs and desires which seem neither to aid nor injure, neither to confirm nor contradict, each other, they cannot interfere with each other any more than two heterogeneous waves or two living types which are too distant from each other to unite. If they do appear to help or confirm each other, they combine by the very fact of this appearance or perception into a new practical or theoretic discovery, which is, in turn, bound to spread abroad, like its components, in contagious imitation. In this case, there has been a gain in the force of desire or belief, as in the corresponding cases of propitious physical or biological interference there was a gain in motor power or vitality. If, on the other hand, the interfering social things, theses or aims, dogmas or interests, convictions or passions, are mutually hurtful and antagonistic in the soul of an individual, or in that of a whole people, both the individual and the community will morally stagnate in doubt and indecision, until their soul is rent in two by some sudden or prolonged effort, and the less cherished belief or passion is sacrificed. Thus life chooses between two miscoupled types.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.24-25

Karl Jaspers (1883-1969)

Increase occurs when ideas are logically coherent: either they convey the same emotion, or explain one another, or argue for the same position.

For example, the great ancient Greek science was based on speculation and observation. The Greeks did not conduct experiments or work in laboratories. This continued until the Renaissance in Europe, when the modern scientific approach emerged. A combination of ideas derived from Christian culture made a great contribution to it. 

The first idea is that only human beings have a soul as the supreme creation of God, while the world and celestial bodies doesn't have such a spiritual status. The world appears as an ingeniously designed mechanism, as a clockwork. The second idea suggests that humans have creative powers like God. This means that these mechanisms of nature can and should be "taken apart" and "reassembled". Both ideas lead to modern science except the one in Islamic culture.

QUOTE 10. If, on the other hand, the world is God's creation, all existence is worth knowing on that account not only rational aspects which can be measured and counted, but all that can be materially perceived. Then man submerges himself lovingly in every particular of a phenomenon; to him there is nothing which does not need to be studied and known-for, as Luther put it, God the Creator is present even in a louse's belly. 

Jaspers K. Nietzsche and Christianity. — Chicago: H. Regnery Co, 1961. P.70

As society develops, imitation becomes more personal and more logical. That is, the range of ideas is expanding and choosing any of them becomes more and more rational. This allows each person to assemble a bunch of ideas to their own taste. So the ideas and their combinations are better assimilated because they are better selected and are more coherent.

QUOTE 11. We should also observe, however, that as the suggestions of example become more numerous and diversified around an individual, each of them loses in intensity, and the individual becomes freer to determine his choice according to the preference of his own character, on the one hand, and on the other, according to certain logical laws which I will discuss elsewhere. Thus it is certain that the progress of civilisation renders subjection to imitation at once more personal and more rational. We are just as much enslaved as our ancestors by the examples of our environment, but we make a better use of them through our more logical and more individual choice, one adapted to our own ends and to our particular nature. And yet, as we shall see, this does not keep extra-logical and prestigeful influences from always playing a very considerable part.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.83

Decrease. To the destruction of desire and belief lead the following factors:

  • Contradiction of the facts and beliefs;
  • Contradiction of two opposite desires;
  • Contradiction of desire and lack of belief in its implementation.

The example below shows that the lack of belief in the first microprocessors discouraged both buyers and sellers.

QUOTE 12. Recalled Hoff: “People were so used to thinking of computers as these big expensive pieces of equipment that had to be protected and guarded and babied and used efficiently to be worthwhile and cost-effective. So there was this builtin bias in people that any computer had to be treated that way. I remember one meeting in which there was all of this concern about repairing microprocessors, and I remember saying, ‘A light bulb burns out, you unscrew it and throw it away and you put another one in—and that’s what you’ll do with microprocessors.’ But they just couldn’t accept doing that with a computer.” [...] 

But the biggest obstacle to the adoption of these new processors was simply a failure of imagination by potential customers, one that wasn’t helped by Intel’s own indecisiveness. [...]

But the devices that Ted Hoff described to them were so radically different in every way that if he had prefaced his presentations by saying they had come from outer space, no one would have been surprised. [...]

Worst of all, even Intel’s marketing and sales people, who would have to sell these chip sets in large volume if the company was going to succeed, didn’t believe in them. 

Malone M. The Intel trinity: how Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove built the world’s most important company. — HarperCollins, 2014. Chapter 18.

If a person's desire and faith in vital life principals are destroyed, two typical consequences arise:

  • Frustration, apathy, inactivity, and despondency;
  • Hostility, desperate attempts to defend ideas that are collapsing.

QUOTE 13. In the preceding paragraphs we have discussed only interference-combinations, interferences which result in discovery and gain and add to the two psychological quantities of desire and belief. But that long sequence of operations in moral arithmetic, which we call history, ushers in at least as many interference-conflicts. [...]

Again, we have (2) on the one side, the enforced and bitter inaction, the slow suicide of a man struggling between two incompatible aptitudes or inclinations, between scientific ardour and literary aspirations, between love and ambition, between pride and indolence, and, on the other side, those various rivalries and competitions which put every spring into action what we call in these days the struggle for existence.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. PP.30-31

Humans don't imitate until their inner contradictions have been resolved.

QUOTE 14. It is now essential to distinguish between the cases in which the logical duel of theses and antitheses is individual and those in which it is social. The distinction could not be more clear-cut. The social duel commences only after the individual one has ceased. Every act of imitation is preceded by hesitation on the part of the individual, for every discovery or invention that seeks to spread abroad always finds some obstacle to overcome in some of the ideas or practices that have already been adopted by every member of the public. 

And then in the heart or mind of every such person some kind of a conflict sets in. It may be between two candidates, that is, between two policies which solicit his vote, or, if he be a statesman, between two perplexing lines of action. It may be between two theories which sway his scientific belief; or between religion and irreligion, or between two sects which contend for his religious adherence. It may be between two objects of art or commerce which hold his taste and his purchase price in suspense. If he be a legislator, it may be between two contrary bills 1 or principles that seem equally important; or, if he be a lawyer, between two solutions of a legal question over which he is reflecting, or between two expressions which suggest themselves at the same time to his hesitating tongue. Now, as long as a man hesitates in this way, he refrains from imitation, whereas it is only as an imitator that he is a part of society. When he finally imitates, it means that he has come to a decision.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.165

Part II. The Laws of Imitation: The Society Level

The following laws describe the mechanics of the process of imitation at the society level.

Law 4. Spread of innovations is guided by logistic curve law.

To demonstrate how innovations spread graphically we need the S-shaped curve or logistic curve:

QUOTE 15. None of them is exempt from this experience any more than a living being from an analogous, or, rather, identical, necessity. A slight incline, a relatively sharp rise, and then a fresh modification of the slope until the plateau is reached : This is also, in abridgment, the profile of every hill, its characteristic curve. This is the law which, if taken as a guide by the statistician and, in general, by the sociologist, would save them from many illusions.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.127

By the way Gabriel Tard seems to be the first who applied the logistic law to the emergence and spreading of innovations.

Stage 1: The emergence of innovation and the struggle against it
The emergence of an innovation is preceded by an accumulation of "small innovations" that do not contradict with previous experience, but rather confirm it.

QUOTE 16. I will show that along all lines there are two distinct kinds of inventions or discoveries, those that are capable of indefinite accumulation (although they may also be replaced) and those that, after a certain degree of accumulation has been reached, must, if progress is to continue, be replaced. Now, the distribution of both kinds takes place quite naturally in the course of progress. The first both precede and follow the second, but in the latter instance, after the exhaustion of the second, they present a systematic character which they previously lacked.

A language may grow without limit through the addition of new words corresponding to new ideas; but although nothing may check the increasing bulk of its vocabulary, the additions to its grammar are restricted. Outside of a small number of grammatical rules and forms which are alike in character and which meet, more or less satisfactorily, all the needs of the language, no new rule or form can arise without entering into opposition with others and without tending to recast the idiom in a different mould.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. PP.174-175

In the first stage, imitation emerges as a custom in a small group core. The emergence of an innovation enhances their trust in it, while the trust in an old contradictory invention or discovery decreases. It becomes a logical duel between the old and the new, which split up into pairs of theses and antitheses about the new and the old invention. One side affirms the new and denies the old; and vice versa.

QUOTE 17. Suppose that a discovery, an invention, has appeared. There are straightway two facts for us to note about it; its gains in faith, as it spreads from one person to another, and the losses in faith to which it subjects the invention which had the same object or satisfied the same desire when it intervened. Such an encounter gives rise to a logical duel. For example, cuneiform writing spread for a long time undisturbed throughout Central Asia, while Phoenician writing had the same career in the Mediterranean basin. But one day these two alphabets came into conflict over the territory of the former; and cuneiform writing slowly receded, but did not disappear until about the first century of our era.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.154

These contradictions are resolved in three ways: 
1. One point of view defeats the other because it is obviously more useful.
2. One point of view meets an external obstacle and cannot overcome it. Then the supporters of that viewpoint "take up arms" in order to knock out the opponents by force.
3. One side voluntarily concedes to the other side, or the rivals reconcil because of new discoveries which eliminate the contradiction.

QUOTE 18. The conclusion of society's logical duel occurs in three different ways. (1) It quite often happens that one of the two adversaries is suppressed merely by the natural prolongation of the other's progress. For example, the Phoenician writing had only to continue to spread to annihilate the cuneiform. The petroleum lamp had only to be known to cause the brazier of nut oil, a slight modification of the Roman lamp, to fall into disuse in the shanties of Southern France. Sometimes, however, a moment arrives when the progress of even the favoured rival is checked by some increasing difficulty in dislodging the enemy beyond a certain point. Then, (2) if the need of settling the contradiction is felt strongly enough, arms are resorted to, and victory results in the violent suppression of one of the two duellists. 

Here may be easily classed the case in which an authoritative, although non-military, force intervenes, as happened in the vote of the Council of Nice in favour of the Athanasian creed, or in the conversion of Constantine to Christianity, or as happens in any important decision following upon the deliberations of a dictator or assembly. In this case, the vote or decree, like the victory in the other case, is a new external condition which favours one of the two rival theses or volitions at the expense of the other and disturbs the natural play of spreading and competing imitations somewhat as a sudden climatic change resulting from a geological accident in a given locality disturbs the propagation of life by preventing the multiplication of some naturally fertile animal or vegetal species and by facilitating that of others which otherwise had been less prolific. Finally, (3) the antagonists are often seen to be reconciled, or one of them is seen to be wisely and voluntarily expelled through the intervention of some new discovery or invention.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.169-170

Max Planck, however, pointed out that even if one idea is clearly superior to another, the counteraction of tradition is so great that the new idea wins only when the opponents simply die out.

QUOTE 19. In his late teens Max Planck, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the creation of quantum theory, wrote: "In the 1980s and 1990s I experienced for myself how difficult it is for a researcher when he is aware that he has ideas that are objectively superior to the prevailing ideas, but all his arguments do not make an impression, because his voice is too weak to make the scientific world listen to him. One could not then rebel against the authority of men like Wilhelm Ostwald, Georg Helm, and Ernst Mach.

A great scientific idea is seldom introduced by the gradual persuasion and conversion of its opponents, it is rare that "Saul becomes Paul." What actually happens is that the opponents gradually die out, and the growing generation becomes accustomed to the new idea from the beginning... 

Planck M. The Unity of the Physical World Picture. — Moscow, Nauka, 1996. PP.188-189. [Translated with]

Stage 2: Spreading of innovation
Then the public opinion submits the new idea and society starts to affirm it instead of denying the old. There is a change of position. The second stage begins, and the idea spreads to a larger and larger groups becoming a kind of a fashion. The old idea now is defended only by archaists. This old system begins to accumulate all objections and concerns.

QUOTE 20. What is the meaning of the incompatibility or discord that may exist between two organs, or conformations, or characteristics taken from two different species? We do not know, but we do know that when two ideas are incompatible it means that one of them implies a negative to the affirmative of the other and that for the same reason the consistency of two ideas means the lack, or the apparent lack, of all such implications. Finally, we know that when two ideas more or less agree, it is because the one implies in a more or less considerable number of its aspects the affirmation of a more or less considerable number of the points which the other affirms. There is nothing less obscure, nothing more enlightening, than these psychical acts of affirmation and negation. [...]

Thus every logical duel is in reality twofold, consisting of two sets of diametrically opposite affirmations and negations. Still, although, at every moment of social life, one of the two hostile theses gainsays the other, yet it presents itself as pre-eminently self -affirmative; whereas the second thesis, although it likewise affirms itself, owes its prominence only to its contradiction of the first. It is essential both for the politician and the historian to distinguish in every case whether the affirmative or the negative side preponderates and to note the moment when the roles are reversed. This moment almost always arrives. There is a certain time when a growing philosophy or religious or political sect owes all its popularity to the support which it lends to the controvertists of the accepted thesis or dogma or to the detractors of government; later, when this philosophy or sect has enlarged, we see that all the forces of the still resistant national church or orthodox philosophy or established government are called upon to serve as a protection against the objections, the doubts, and the alarms that have been aroused by the ideas and pretensions of the innovators, ideas and pretensions that have by this time become attractive in themselves. In the case of industry and fine arts, it is for the pleasure of change, of not doing the usual thing, that that part of the public which is influenced by fashion adopts a new product to the neglect of some old one; then when the novelty has become acclimated and appreciated for its own sake the older product seeks a refuge in the cherished habits of the other part of the public which is partial to custom and which wishes to show in that way that it also does not do the same thing as the rest of the world.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. PP. 68-69, 163-164

In the same way, expectations in the microprocessor industry have changed. At first no one believed in the new possibilities, but then everyone began to expect miracles:

QUOTE 21. Thus at the very least, especially with transformative products like the Intel 4004 and 8008, it was going to take time for customers just to get their heads around the idea of a handful of chips replacing a wall of magnetic ring cores or a motherboard or two filled with logic and memory chips. Then they had to see if any of their competitors were looking at the same solution and thus validating the technology. Then they had to look at the cost of redesigning their products to incorporate this new technology. And then they had to look at the cost of building these new, microprocessor-powered designs, rewriting their operating code, and figuring out the new marketing and pricing on the result. 

That took time in fact, about a year from the first reports about the 4004 in the trade press in mid-1971 to the summer promotional tour for the 8008 by Intel’s executives. It was a stunning experience for the participants: “The entire electronics industry seemed to undergo an awakening. Intel’s efforts had finally had their effect. Suddenly, as if overnight, engineers they visited understood the meaning of the microprocessors. They had read the articles, heard the speeches, talked to their peers, and as if as one, jumped aboard the silicon bandwagon.” 

In fact, their embrace of this new technology almost went too far, as if they had spent so many months with no expectations that they were now trying to make up for lost time: “It was a little disorienting. Where a few months before, the typical audience to a speech by Hoff or Noyce had sat in disbelief, now suddenly they seemed to expect too much. Doubt in one direction had almost instantaneously shifted to overexpectations in the other. Now potential customers demanded to know why a $400 chip couldn’t do everything a $50,000 minicomputer did.”

Malone M. The Intel trinity: how Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove built the world’s most important company. — HarperCollins, 2014. Chapter 19.

Stage 3: Consolidation of innovation as a norm
In the third stage the mechanisms of imitation become more and more precise, demanding, and allowing no exceptions.

QUOTE 22. Although Christianity has grown more complex, from century to century, it has shown itself from its very beginning more and more exacting in point of regularity, uniformity, and orthodoxy. Although savage languages are very meagre, they are, according to Sayce and Whitney, as variable and as carelessly transmitted as civilised languages, in spite of their richness, are uniform and persistent. Procedure, the etiquette of justice, is also very formal when the law is very old, however complicated it may have become. Ceremonial, the etiquette of worldly relations, is less strict among nations whose polite society is of later origin than their law or religion. The contrary is true in Chinese society for the opposite reason. Prosody, the etiquette of poetry, becomes more and more despotic as versification increases and, strange to say, as the poetic imagination expands. Red tape and administrative routine, the etiquette of government, increase day by day with differentiation in government. Architecture requires its followers to become more and more servile in the repetition of the consecrated types that are for the time being in favour. This is true also of music. Painting also requires its servants to reproduce with more and more photographic exactness the models of nature or tradition. Under the ancient regime, the military uniform was less general and less respected than it is to-day, and the farther back we go the greater individual variety do we find in the dress of military ranks. According to Burckhardt, at Florence, in the Middle Ages, everyone dressed to suit his fancy as if at a mask-ball. How we should be scandalised to-day by such license!

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.191

At the same time, on the personality level, these mechanisms become automatic, i.e. unconscious.

QUOTE 23. But I do not attach great importance to this classification. Is it true that as a people becomes civilised its manner of imitating becomes more and more voluntary, conscious, and deliberate? I think the opposite is true. Just as with the individual unconscious habits were originally conscious and self-determined acts, so in the nation everything that is done or said by tradition or custom began by being a difficult and much-questioned importation. I should add, to be sure, that many imitations are from the very beginning unconscious and involuntary. This is so of the imitation of the accents, manners, and more often of the ideals and sentiments peculiar to the environment in which we live. It is also plain that imitation of the will of others I know no other way of defining spontaneous obedience is necessarily involuntary. But let us observe that the involuntary and unconscious forms of imitation never become voluntary and conscious, whereas the voluntary and conscious forms are likely to take on the opposite characteristics.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.192-193

Law 5. The pursuit for maximum social consensus with an idea, i.e. for the universal opinion.

This law reflects the essence of the process of imitation, its ability to spread constantly. This causes processes of logical unification, desire to harmonize existing ideas, pursuit of reconciling existing points of view. Thus, there are two periods: generation of new ideas and criticism which replace each other. Criticism is needed to harmonize new ideas with previous knowledge.

QUOTE 24. Generation is a free kind of undulation, whose waves are worlds in themselves. Imitation does still better; its influence is exerted not only over a great distance, but over great intervals of time. It establishes a pregnant relation between the inventor and his copier, separated as they may be by thousands of years, between Lycurgus and a member of the French Convention, between the Roman painter of a Pompeiian fresco and the modern decorator whom it has inspired. Imitation is generation at a distance.  

It seems as if these three forms of repetition were three undertakings of its single endeavour to extend the field of its activity, to successfully cut off every chance of revolt in elements which are always quick to overthrow the yoke of law, and by more and more ingenious and potent methods to constrain their tumultuous crowd to proceed in orderly masses of constantly increasing strength and organisation. [...] 

Everything, even the desire to invent, has the same origin. In fact, this desire completes and is part of the logical need for unification, if it is true, as I might prove, that logic is both a problem of a maximum and a problem of equilibrium. The more a people invent and discover, the more inventive and the more eager for new discoveries they grow. It is also through imitation that this noble kind of craving takes possession of those minds that are worthy of it. Now, discoveries are gains in certitude, inventions, in confidence and security. The desire to discover and invent is, consequently, the twofold form which the tendency toward achieving a maximum of public faith takes on. This creative tendency which is peculiar to synthesising and assimilating minds often alternates, is sometimes concomitant, but in all cases always agrees with the critical tendency towards an equilibrium of beliefs through the elimination of those inventions or discoveries which are contrary to the majority of their number. The desire for unanimity of faith and the desire for purification of faith is each in turn more fully satisfied, but in general their ebullitions either coincide with, or follow closely upon each other. For just because imitation is their common source, both of them, the desire for stable as well as that for absolute faith, have a degree of intensity proportionate, other things being equal, to the degree of animation in the social life, that is, to the multiplicity of relations between individuals. Any fine combination of ideas must first shine out in the mind of the individual before it can illumine the mind of a nation; and its chance of being produced in the individual mind depends upon the frequency of the intellectual exchanges between minds. A contradiction between two institutions or two principles will not harass a society until it has been noted by some exceptionally sagacious person, some systematic thinker, who, having been checked in his conscious efforts to unify his own group of ideas, points out the aforesaid difficulty. This explains the social importance of philosophers. And the greater the amount of mutual intellectual stimulation and, consequently, the greater the circulation of ideas within a nation, the more readily will such a difficulty be perceived.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.34-35, 150-151

Law 6. The accumulation of imitations generates contradictions / conflicts. 

The accumulation of ideas and appearance of new needs leads, among other things, to the accumulation and aggravation of contradictions. Ultimately, this can even lead to the death of communities because not all the ideas and needs are compatible.

QUOTE 25. Thus we see that a social type or what is called a particular civilisation is a veritable system, a more or less coherent theory, whose inner contradictions eventually strengthen themselves or eventually break out and force its disruption. Under such conditions it is easy to understand why there are certain pure and strong types of civilisation and certain mixed and feeble types, and why the purest types change and decay upon the addition of new inventions which stimulate new desires and beliefs and disturb the balance of old desires and faiths; why, in other words, all inventions cannot be added to others, and why many can merely be substituted for others, those, namely, that stimulate desires and beliefs which are implicitly or explicitly contradictory in all the logical exactness of the word. Therefore, in the oscillations of history there is nothing but endless additions and subtractions of quantities of faith or desire which are brought forward by discoveries and which reinforce or neutralise one another, like intersecting vibrations.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.69

Contradictions on the level of society arise when individuals have resolved their inner contradictions on the level of personality, got rid of indecision and, therefore, became capable of action. The personality no longer opposes any ideas; the personality now becomes an adherent of different ones. 

QUOTE 26. Let us suppose, although it is an hypothesis that could never be realised, that all the members of a nation were simultaneously and indefinitely in a state of indecision like that which I have described. Then war would be at an end, for an ultimatum or a declaration of war presupposes the making of individual decisions by cabinet officers. For war to exist, the clearest type of the logical duel in society, peace must first have been established in the minds of the ministers or rulers who before that hesitated to formulate the thesis and antithesis embodied in the two opposing armies. [...] 

In brief, to reiterate, social irresolution begins when individual irresolution ends. Nowhere else can be seen to greater advantage the striking similarity and dissimilarity of the logic and psychology of society to the logic and psychology of the individual. I hasten to add that although the hesitation which precedes an act of imitation is merely an individual fact, yet it is caused by social facts, that is, by other accomplished acts of imitation. The resistance which a man always puts up against the influence, whether rational or prestigeful, of another man whom he is about to copy is always the outcome of some prior influence which he has already experienced. His delay in imitating is due to the intersection in his mind of a given current of imitation with an inclination towards a different imitation. It is well to note here that even the spread of an imitation involves it in an encounter and struggle with another imitation.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.165-167

Each resolved contradiction, in terms of imitation, leads to the emergence of a new contradiction of a higher level.

QUOTE 27. Let us note another more important fact. Whatever method may be used to suppress conflict between beliefs or between interests and to bring about their agreement, it almost always happens (does it not always happen?) that the resulting harmony creates a new kind of antagonism. For contradictions and contrarieties of details, some massive contradiction or contrariety has been substituted, and this also seeks a solution for itself only to raise up still greater oppositions, and so on until the final solution is reached.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.185

Part III. How to Reinforce Imitation or 11 Useful PR-effects.

Effect 1

To accept new ideas, a person needs to overcome the resistance of the old ones. That is, before putting a new idea in a person's head, it is necessary to identify his previous stereotypes and correct them. For example, the developers of Windows used the terms "Desktop", "Folder", "Documents", etc., to draw an analogy with real office objects and make it more convenient for users to navigate through them.

QUOTE 28. I hasten to add that although the hesitation which precedes an act of imitation is merely an individual fact, yet it is caused by social facts, that is, by other accomplished acts of imitation. The resistance which a man always puts up against the influence, whether rational or prestigeful, of another man whom he is about to copy is always the outcome of some prior influence which he has already experienced. His delay in imitating is due to the intersection in his mind of a given current of imitation with an inclination towards a different imitation. It is well to note here that even the spread of an imitation involves it in an encounter and struggle with another imitation

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.166-167

Effect 2

The higher the passions, the greater is the desire to imitate. With the exception of such simple desires as to eat some delicious food or something. That is, when promoting ideas related to simple desires, it is necessary to move to the level of higher passions, to the level of social needs. For example, modern vegetarian cuisine is promoted along with ideas of a particularly "advanced" lifestyle in general.

QUOTE 29. The functions of the higher senses are more transmissible through imitation than those of the lower. We are much more likely to copy someone who is looking at or listening to something than someone who is smelling a flower or tasting a dish. This is the reason why in large cities a gathering is so soon formed around a loungingplace. We plunge into the waiting line behind the doors of a theatre much more eagerly than into the restaurant behind whose window panes we see its patrons enjoying their dinner.

All passions and needs for luxury are more contagious than simple appetites and primitive needs. But shall we say, as to passions, that admiration, confidence, love, and resignation are superior in this respect to contempt, distrust, hatred, and envy? In general, yes, otherwise society would not endure. For the same reason, and in spite of frequent epidemics of panic, hope is certainly more catching than terror. Indolence is likewise more so than ambition and avarice, the spirit of saving than avidity. And this is very fortunate for the peace of society.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.195-196

Effect 3

People imitate role models they see and understand. Usually, these models are not the best ones. Consequently, role models must be simple and clear to everyone. 

QUOTE 30. In the same way when aristocratic rule begins to weaken, and when less obedience is paid to privileged classes, people are emboldened to copy them in external things. We know that this conforms to advance ab exterior'ibus ad exteriora, but it is also in part explained by the application of another very general law, which should be combined with that concerning the imitation of superiors. If the latter were unconditional, the most superior thing would be the one to be most imitated ; but, in reality, the thing that is most imitated is the most superior one of those that arc nearest. In fact, the influence of the model's example is efficacious inversely to its distance as well as directly to its superiority. 

Distance is understood here in its sociological meaning. However distant in space a stranger may be, he is close by, from this point of view, if we have numerous and daily relations with him and if we have every facility to satisfy our desire to imitate him. This law of the imitation of the nearest, of the least distant, explains the gradual and consecutive character of the spread of an example that has been set by the highest social ranks. We may infer, as its corollary, when we see a lower class setting itself to imitating for the first time a much higher class, that the distance between the two had diminished. [...]

In brief, the superiority which s imitated is the superiority which is understood; 1 and that which is understood is what is believed, or seen, to be conducive to benefits which are appreciated because they satisfy certain wants. I may say, parenthetically, that these wants are derived, to be sure, from organic life, but that their social mould and channel are made by the example of others.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.224, 233-234


QUOTE 31. Though the Apple II was the company's cash cow, Steve rightly saw that its appeal would be fading. Worse, the company had just faced its first major failure: the recall of every one of the new $7,800 Apple III machines, due to a problem with a faulty cable that cost less than thirty cents.

Then there was the onslaught by IBM with its unlikely, cutesy "Charlie Chaplin" ads. By its entry, Big Blue had the profound effect of legit. imizing personal computing as something more substantial than a hobbyist's playground. The company had virtually created a vast new market with the snap of its fingers. But the immediate question for Apple was: How in the world could it counter the legendary market power of IBM?

Elliot J., Simon W. The Steve Jobs way : iLeadership for a new generation. — New York, NY : Vanguard Press, 2011.

Effect 4

To spread the idea as widely as possible, you need to eliminate all local attributes, to make more common and universal.

QUOTE 32. Imitation was emancipated from heredity for the same reason that mind was disengaged from matter. On the other hand, the latter progress facilitated the former. The god who is the least corporeal and the most spiritual is the one who has the most chance of subjugating foreign peoples; for men of different races differ less from one another intellectually than physically, or, at any rate, their physical differences are less rigid and unmalleable and more easily effaced through gradual assimilation than their physical differences. For the same reason the most systematic mythology is the one that is fated to win territory. [...]

We can now see from the point of view of government an analogous series of transformations. In the beginning every family formed a distinct state; then followed a state which contained thousands of families, welded together by a purely artificial tie, and, finally, every state made its own nation, *. e., its particular race or sub-race, its own family.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.280-281, 287

A clear illustration of this effect is the phenomenon of new Hollywood cinema, which began with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas blockbusters. This cinema takes as its basis stories relevant to some common problems. It is not just about America: national and ethnic features are simply thrown away.

QUOTE 33. After all, the fantasy of a unified, homogeneous America that dominated films of the classic era came not from the natives, the Wasps who had no need of it, but from the immigrants, principally Jews, whose dream of assimilation led to a kind of superpatriotic vision of America and celebration of its Christian holidays (think Easter Parade), to the enshrinement of family and community, an ur-America that, while the dream lasted, glossed over ethnicity and diversity with an inclusive middle-class ideal. Just as this dominant myth was breaking down in the post-fifties, Spielberg would arrive to reinvigorate the fantasy, making films for an “everyone” that we were told no longer existed.

[Chapter 2.]

E.T. was an Ugly Duckling story—the Jewish kid with the long nose and big ears, misfit in Arizona’s Wasp and jock culture, transformed by cinematic magic into a big-headed extraterrestrial, cousin to the childlike figures who had descended from the spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And a lonely guy story: Spielberg told Rolling Stone interviewer Michael

Sragow that he thought of E.T. as the Nowhere Man from the Beatles song. 5 The alien would be the pal and soul mate of another lonely guy figure of isolation. Imagining himself as a ten-year-old—which by his own admission he still was—he brooded over the need for a friend “who needed me as much as I needed him.” 

The lonely child—who hasn’t been one? The imaginary playmate—who hasn’t had one? The Nowhere Land, who hasn’t lived there? The movie touched millions and showed just how deeply in tune with his audience Spielberg was. He was in the process not of “finding” an audience but of creating one magnetically, unrestricted by age or language or even gender. The intensity of a child’s longing was a universal experience; the search for a soul mate, for one’s “other half,” the classic definition of love.

[Chapter 8.]

Haskell M. Steven Spielberg. Life in Films. — New Haven and London, 2017.

Effect 5

The more people involved, the more they communicate with each other, and the faster do the ideas are copied.

QUOTE 34. Besides, as the agglomerations of human beings increase, the spread of ideas in a regular geometrical progression is more marked. Let us exaggerate this numerical increase to an extreme degree, let us suppose that the social sphere in which an idea can expand be composed not only of a group sufficiently numerous to give birth to the principal moral varieties of the human species, but also of thousands of uniform repetitions of these groups, so that the uniformity of these repetitions makes an apparent homogeneity, in spite of the internal complexity of each group. Have we not some reason for thinking that this is the kind of homogeneity which characterises all the simple and apparently uniform realities which external nature presents to us ? On this hypothesis, it is evident that the success of an idea, the more or less rapid rate at which it circulated on the day of its appearance, would supply the mathematical reason, in a way, of its further progression.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.18

Take for example Facebook’s rapid rise in popularity. One of the key factors here was spreading it among students. Just because they are the most active in communication.

QUOTE 35. The software spread quickly from the very beginning. The first users—Zuckerberg’s Kirkland House neighbors—sent emails to other students asking them to join and become their friends. That begat other emails from those students inviting their own friends to join. Someone suggested sending an email to everyone on the Kirkland House mailing list—about three hundred people. Several dozen signed up almost immediately. [...] 

Pretty quickly, though, it was more about fending off interest than stimulating it. Emails started to arrive from around the country, begging Zuckerberg and crew to bring Thefacebook to other schools. Within weeks the four Harvard sophomores—all still carrying a full course load—had launched their service at MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Brown, and Boston University. By mid-March the total user number hit 20,000. Yet another high school classmate of Zuckerberg’s at Exeter entered the picture. This time it was Adam D’Angelo, Exeter’s other programming whiz, Zuckerberg’s summer roommate, and co-author of music recommendation program Synapse. From his dorm at Caltech, D’Angelo helped Moskovitz do programming to add new schools. The Ivy League and similar schools were the first to launch largely because that’s where the real-world social networks of users at Harvard could be found—mostly friends from high school. Thefacebook had an elite edge.

Kirkpatrick D. The Facebook Effect. — Simon & Schuster, 2010. Chapter 1.

Effect 6

This effect is a direct consequence of the law of interference: the more mutually confirming the sources of influence are, the stronger is the impact. Despite the fact that the influence of each individual source becomes weaker. Moreover, the more often a person is influenced, the stronger the influence will become.

QUOTE 36. Civilised peoples flatter themselves with thinking that they have escaped from this dogmatic slumber. Their error can be explained. The oftener a person has been magnetised, the easier and quicker is it for him to be remagnetised. This fact shows us how it is that societies come to imitate one another with increasing ease and rapidity. As they become civilised and, consequently, more and more imitative, they also become less and less aware that they are imitating.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.82


QUOTE 37. If they [two beliefs or desires] do appear to help or confirm each other, they combine by the very fact of this appearance or perception into a new practical or theoretic discovery, which is, in turn, bound to spread abroad, like its components, in contagious imitation. In this case, there has been a gain in the force of desire or belief, as in the corresponding cases of propitious physical or biological interference there was a gain in motor power or vitality. 

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.25

To avoid an overuse of this effect, communications regulators restrict an amount of advertising.

QUOTE 38. The total amount of advertising in any one day must not exceed an average of seven minutes per hour of broadcasting. 

Ofcom (the UK's communications regulator). Rules on the amount and distribution of advertising. Link

Effect 7

If a person is "stunned" by impressions, he becomes more easily led. If a person comes to a new environment, he becomes very dependent on the opinions of those who inhabit that environment. The aura of a winner and fascination with power are based on the same principle. In general, an environment saturated with social interactions tends to make a person somnambulistic and self-abandoned.

QUOTE 39. This part is remarkably potent and interesting in the case of an individual who suddenly passes from an impoverished environment to one rich in all kinds of suggestions. Then there is no need of such a brilliant and striking object as personal glory or genius to bewitch him and to put him to sleep. The college freshman, the Japanese traveller in Europe, the countryman in Paris, are as stupefied as if they were in a state of catalepsy. Their attention is so bent upon everything they see and hear, especially upon the actions of the human beings around them, that it is absolutely withdrawn from everything they have previously seen and heard, or even thought of or done. It is not that their memory is destroyed, for it has never been as alert or as quick to respond to the slightest word which recalls to them, with a wealth of hallucinating detail, their distant country, their home, or their previous existence. 

But memory becomes absolutely paralysed; all its own spontaneity is lost. In this singular condition of intensely concentrated attention, of passive and vivid imagination, these stupefied and fevered beings inevitably yield themselves to the magical charm of their new environment. They believe everything that they see, and they continue in this state for a long time. 

It is always more fatiguing to think for one's self than to think through the minds of others. Besides, whenever a man lives in an animated environment, in a highly strung and diversified society which is continually supplying him with fresh sights, with new books and music and with constantly renewed conversation, he gradually refrains from all intellectual effort; his mind, growing more and more stultified and, at the same time, more and more excited, becomes, as I have said, somnambulistic. Such a state of mind is characteristic of many city dwellers. The noise and movement of the streets, the display of shop-windows, and the wild and unbridled rush of existence affect them like magnetic passes. Now, is not city life a concentrated and exaggerated type of social life? [...]

…to be put at one's ease in a given society is to adopt its manners and fashions, to speak its dialect, to copy its gestures, in short, to finally abandon one's self unresistingly to the many surrounding currents of subtle influences against which one first struggled in vain, and to abandon one's self so completely that all consciousness of this self-abandonment is lost.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.83-84, 86

Many modern blockbusters and TV series begin with dynamic or provocative scenes. They "stun" the viewer, so he is easily involved in the plot. A similar technique is used in musicals: when many actors participate in scenes, bright decorations are put up and loud music is played, and the viewer is "stunned" by the spectacular show.

Effect 8

Imitation occurs faster in the higher social groups. To be more specific, it occurs faster in the highest of the most socially close classes; not in the highest of them all.

In fact, this means that it is most effective to spread ideas through the most authoritative social groups and "opinion leaders." The same effect shows that the aristocracy has a special social function in spreading innovations, which at the same doesn’t in any way make them their producers.

QUOTE 40. Therefore the apologists for aristocracy have, in my opinion, passed over its best justification. The principal role of a nobility, its distinguishing mark, is its initiative, if not inventive, character. Invention can start from the lowest ranks of the people, but its extension depends upon the existence of some lofty social elevation, a kind of social water-tower, whence a continuous water-fall of imitation may descend. At every period and in every country the aristocratic body has been open to foreign novelties and has been quick to import them, 3 just as the staff of an army is the best-informed part of the army on the subject of foreign military innovations, and the most apt in adopting them intelligently, thereby rendering as much service as by the discipline which it inspires. As long as its vitality endures, a nobility may be recognised by this characteristic. When, on the other hand, it throws itself back upon traditions, jealously attaches itself to them and defends them against the attacks of a people whom it had previously accustomed to changes, it is safe to say that its great work is done, however useful it may be in this complementary role of moderator, and that its decline has set in.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.221

Another factor in Facebook's rapid rise in popularity was the Harvard brand, where the social network was created. Many people wanted to "join the club" and enter the university, which to these days occupies the first lines in all the world university rankings.

QUOTE 41. Harvard offered Zuckerberg unique resources for developing his business. \...\ Then of course there’s the allure of something that began in the most exclusive halls of all academia. Harvard confers an imprimatur that carries unique weight in any field. A Harvard connection makes a product less suspect. To join a social network that began at Harvard might seem perfectly natural to anyone with a high opinion of himself. That was an important early dynamic.

Kirkpatrick D. The Facebook Effect. — Simon & Schuster, 2010. Chapter 1.

Effect 9

If we combine the desire with the belief in one’s superiority, we’ll increase the first and the latter. Up to a pure fanaticism. 

QUOTE 42. 3. In historical importance, however, no mental interference equals that of a desire and a belief. But the numerous cases in which a conviction or opinion fastens itself upon an inclination, and effects it merely through inspiring another desire, must not be included in this category. After these cases have been eliminated, there still remains a considerable number in which the supervening idea acts directly upon the desire it has fallen in with and stimulated. Suppose, for example, that I would like to be an orator in the Chamber of Deputies, and I am straightway persuaded by the compliment of a friend that I have recently displayed true oratorical talent. This conviction enhances my ambition, and my ambition itself contributed to my conviction. For the same reason, there is no historical error, no atrocious or extravagant calumny or madness, which is not readily entertained by the very political passion which it helps to inflame. A belief will also stimulate a desire, now by making its object seem mere attainable, now by stamping it with its approval. It also happens, to complete our analysis, that a man may realise that his own scheme will be helped by the belief of others, although he may have no share in their belief, nor they in his scheme. Such a realisation is a -find that many an impostor has exploited and still exploits.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.28-29

The third factor that helped Facebook was Harvard students' belief in their own superiority, which they sought to express through a new tool: the social network.

QUOTE 43. It also didn’t hurt that Harvard students are preternaturally status-conscious. The service served as a validation of the scale of your social ambitions even as it measured your success. Sam Lessin, a Zuckerberg friend and classmate who was an early user, says, “There is incredible latent social competition at Harvard which I think really helped Facebook in the early days.” If people were going to maintain their profile and social networks online, then the kind of natural elitists who attend Harvard had no compunction attempting to construct the best and largest of them. Back in that Crimson opinion piece written when Thefacebook was less than two weeks old, Amelia Lester nailed it: “There’s little wonder why Harvard students, in particular, find the opportunity to fashion an online persona such a tantalizing prospect. Most of us spent our high school careers building resumes so padded they’d hold their own in a sumo match, an experience which culminated in the college application.…Most of all [Thefacebook] is about performing…and letting the world know why we’re important individuals. In short, it’s what Harvard students do best.”

Kirkpatrick D. The Facebook Effect. — Simon & Schuster, 2010. Chapter 1.

Effect 10

A fair assumption combined with a relative fact increases both of these things altogether. That is, if a new fact or assumption is confirmed by something sufficiently reliable and already experienced the personality accepts the new fact more easily and it makes him rely on his own experience even more. 

QUOTE 44. 1. If a conjecture which I have considered fairly probable comes into my mind while I am reading or remembering a fact which I think is almost certain, and if I suddenly perceive that the fact confirms the conjecture of which it is a consequence (t. e., the particular proposition which expresses the fact is included in the general proposition which expresses the conjecture), the conjecture immediately becomes much more probable in my eyes, and, at the same time, the fact appears to me to be an absolute certainty. So that there is a gain in belief all along the line. And the perception of this logical inclusion is a discovery. Newton discovered nothing more than this when, having brought his conjectured law of gravitation face to face with the calculation of the distance from the moon to the earth, he perceived that this fact confirmed his hypothesis.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.26

The easiest way to increase the event credibility is to add small relative details into the story, for example to put the event into a well-known environment.

QUOTE 45. The Boyfriend's Death is a famous urban legend that begins with a couple heading out on a date in the boyfriend's car. The car runs out of gas under a tree on a deserted road. The girl suspects that the guy is faking in order to make out with her, but soon she realizes they're really stuck. The boyfriend decides to walk to the nearest house for help, and the girl stays behind. He has been gone for a long time it feels like hours-and the girl is frightened by a creepy scratching coming from the roof of the car, possibly the scrapings of a low-hanging tree branch. After several hours of anxious waiting, the girl gets out of the car to discover-cue the horror music!-her boyfriend, murdered and hanging from the tree above the car. His toes scrape the roof as he swings in the wind.

When people pass this legend along, they always add particular details. It's always set in a specific location, which varies when it is told in different parts of the country: "It happened right off Farm Road 121"; "It happened right on top of that bluff over Lake Travis." An expert on folk legends, Jan Brunvand, says that legends "acquire a good deal of their credibility and effect from their localized details."

Heath C, Heath D. Made to Stick. Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. — New York: Random House, 2007. PP.137-138

Effect 11

The more distant and unknown things you use, the more sympathy they will evoke. So if you create an image of an ancient or even foreign idea, it will spread more easily.

QUOTE 46. But Buckle might also have observed that even in the most remote period of antiquity the worship of the foreigner appears alongside that of the ancestor. The distant in space is no less prestigious to barbarians and savages than the distant in time. And the wonders of the world they dream of, their Edens and Hells, in particular, and the beings they endow with supernatural power are localised by their legends on the borders of the known universe. The Aztecs thought that they were fated to be conquered by a divine race hailing from the shores of the far East. The Peruvians held an analogous belief. It is impossible not to recognise, moreover, that several of their gods were the alien reformers or conquerors who had charmed or subjugated their forefathers. The same fact may be observed in all old religions. The reason of it is that, from the most remote period of antiquity, parental prestige must have often been arrested by the sudden appearance of some external and superior prestige. From time to time some unknown chief of invincible fame rises up out of the distant horizon; all are prostrate before him, and the Penates are for the moment forgotten. A newcomer, a bringer of secret and admirable knowledge, is conceived of as an all powerful sorcerer before whom the whole world trembles. 

The multiplication of such apparitions is all that is needed to turn men towards a new form of adoration, to substitute the fascination of the distant for that of the past. Moreover, it is likely that the despotic authority of foreign masters and civilisers was copied from that of the pater familias, and the apotheosis of these epochs, whether filial or servile, displays itself to us as the highest degree of reverential fear. It is, therefore, not astonishing that the most despotic gods are also the most revered. To-day, families which are ruled by authority show us the same state of things. The terrifying character of ancient deities and the humiliating nature of ancient cults are not due to a source for which man need blush. And we can understand the persistence of such beliefs in ancient societies from the fact of their dependence upon the social principle without which the societies themselves could not have been possible. For this reason, although atheism would certainly have been a great relief to the hearts of devout people as an emancipation from their chronic state of terror, atheism could not spread at a time when it would have been social suicide.

Tarde G. The Laws of Imitation. — NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1903. P.269-271

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