PERSUADING FARMERS TO CHANGE THEIR WAYS. I recall, but can’t find with Google, a portrayal by John Kenneth Galbraith (who began as an agricultural economist) of the tremendous service rendered by the US Department of Agriculture extension agents in spreading best agricultural practices across the United States. Everett Rogers, the sociologist whom Gawande calls the “the great scholar of how new ideas are communicated and spread”, and whose theory of the spread of ideas Gawande adopts, was the son of a farmer. This wikipedia biography of Rogers tells the story of how Rogers’s father “resisted adopting the new hybrid seed corn, even though it yielded 25% more crop and was resistant to drought. During the Iowa drought of 1936, while the hybrid seed corn stood tall on the neighbor’s farm, the crop on the Rogers’ farm wilted.”

Of course, a communication from a neighbor, whose corn was flourishing while yours was dying, could well be trustworthy.

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