Essays on diffusion and categories

Joeri van Hugten

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Essay’ derives from the French ‘to try’. Accordingly, in this book, I try three new interpretations of diffusion and categories. That is, I try to divide observations into groups in a new way. Some ways of dividing lead to confusion and frustration. For example, people’s default division seems to be ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or ‘like’ and ‘dislike’. Observations such as, for instance, high rates of domestic violence in marriages of American football players are confusing given this division, because people like football but dislike violence. The fact that the same person is in both of these opposing categories causes cognitive dissonance. In contrast, a meaningful division, such as ‘aggressive people’ and ‘timid people’, leads to consistency and peace of mind; football players are selected for their aggressiveness and domestic violence is an expression of aggressiveness. Likewise, each chapter tries a new way of grouping observations about organizations.
Trying an interpretation involves describing what that interpretation means. The meaning of an interpretation is anchored in less abstract observations that are associated with it (e.g. examples). Practically, this means I make hypotheses about what we would observe if the interpretation were true. For example, in the third chapter I try to interpret industries as being divided into two groups: ‘generic categories are salient’ and ‘specific categories are salient’. Observations such as high correlation between subcategory density and entries in industries with many subcategories are consistent with the associations of the grouping; many subcategories makes specific categories more salient and specific category saliency is expressed in subcategory density’s correlation with entries. If the observations are in line with what the interpretation means, then the interpretation I try is meaningful
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Tilburg University
  • Simons, Tal, Promotor
  • Kuilman, Jeroen, Co-promotor
Award date2 Sept 2015
Place of PublicationTilburg
Print ISBNs9789056684488
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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