How Ideas Spread

How Ideas Spread
Course Trailer
Social Epidemics-Why Things Catch On
1: Social Epidemics-Why Things Catch On

What leads products, ideas, and behaviors to become popular? What causes them to die out? The answer lies in the science of how ideas spread, which you'll begin to examine with the story behind Livestrong bracelets-one of the most notable social epidemics of our time.

35 min
The Basics of Consumer Psychology
2: The Basics of Consumer Psychology

Why can seeing something more frequently make you like it more? Find out here, as you look at consumer psychology and the way we naturally process information. Understand what happens from the moment people are exposed to information and begin to develop perceptions, and learn how these basic cognitive processes influence what eventually catches on.

30 min
The Impact of Triggers on Consumer Choice
3: The Impact of Triggers on Consumer Choice

Why might voting in a church versus a school change how you cast your ballot? Why would hearing French music at the grocery store make you more likely to buy French wine? Explore the phenomenon of triggers, from how they're defined to how they influence what we like, what we buy, and top-of-mind awareness.

27 min
Simple Rules to Make Ideas Stick
4: Simple Rules to Make Ideas Stick

Why do some things stick in memory while other ideas are quickly forgotten? Find out here, as you learn how ideas that fit with the four key principles of human memory-simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, and credibility-tend to be "stickier" or more memorable.

28 min
The Social Influence of Conformity
5: The Social Influence of Conformity

In the first of several lectures related to social influence, you'll consider the phenomenon of conformity and its role in why ideas spread. You'll learn why bartenders seed the tip jar, when people actually prefer waiting in line, and why conformity compels us to follow others even when we know they're wrong.

31 min
The Social Influence of Divergence
6: The Social Influence of Divergence

Social influence is like a magnet-it can attract or repel. As you explore the notion of divergence and the meaning of consumption, discover when and why people avoid following the crowd and how anti-conformity has caused once-popular cars, designer bags, and other products to fall out of favor with their original audience.

30 min
Word of Mouth-Powerful and Persuasive
7: Word of Mouth-Powerful and Persuasive

More than 10 times as effective as company-generated communications, word of mouth is a powerful tool-and it's becoming more so each day. Examine the influence of word of mouth, how it differs from traditional advertising, and the role that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter play in shaping communication.

28 min
The Social Currency of Shared Ideas
8: The Social Currency of Shared Ideas

From cat videos to New York Times science articles, some online content goes viral while the bulk of it never gets more than 10 views. Some products get lots of word of mouth activity, while others are never discussed. Discover the six key drivers of social transmission that lead products, ideas, and behaviors to generate buzz.

32 min
Messages That Go Viral
9: Messages That Go Viral

Wrap up the section on social influence by looking at the three remaining drivers of social transmission- stories, practical value, and making the private public-in the context of intriguing case studies. Learn about the failure of the "Just Say No" campaign, the success of a humble corn-husking video, and some shrewd design decisions by Apple.

30 min
Social Networks-Channels of Influence
10: Social Networks-Channels of Influence

Could a person you barely know affect your behavior? Consider this question as you begin to explore the channels through which information and influence spread. Learn about different types of social ties and how these ties impact what people share, the jobs people get, and life in general.

29 min
Social Influencers-Myths and Science
11: Social Influencers-Myths and Science

Are well-connected people or "influencers" the catalysts for ideas and products catching on? Examine this social-epidemic theory, the science behind how it does-or doesn't-work, how likely it is to be true, and whether companies who pay reality TV star Kim Kardashian $10,000 per Tweet will see a return on their investment.

27 min
Tracking Results-Big Data, Little Data
12: Tracking Results-Big Data, Little Data

Conclude the course with a thought-provoking discussion of Big Data. Learn how Google tries to predict everything from flu outbreaks to retail and home sales, why companies need to monitor social media chatter, and whether our addiction to analytics might be leading us astray. Also, consider the rise of Little Data and the effects of measuring and tracking the minutiae of our everyday lives.

27 min
Jonah Berger

Ideas spread from person to person, but how far they go depends on the pattern of connections between people.


Stanford University


University of Pennsylvania

About Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a B.A. in Human Judgment and Decision Making from Stanford University and a Ph.D. from Stanford Graduate School of Business. He has served as a visiting faculty member at Duke University and Cornell University.

The recipient of numerous awards for teaching and research, Professor Berger received Wharton's MBA Teaching Commitment and Curricular Innovation Award and won their "Iron Prof" faculty competition for outstanding research. In recognition of his research on social dynamics-which mixes psychology, sociology, marketing, and economics to understand why products, ideas, and behaviors become popular-Mr. Berger has been named one of the top five most productive researchers in marketing by the American Marketing Association and received early career awards from both the Association for Consumer Research and the Society for Consumer Psychology.

Professor Berger is the author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, which appeared on the bestseller lists of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and has been translated into almost 30 languages. He also has published dozens of articles in top-tier academic journals and has consulted for a variety of Fortune 500 companies.

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