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How is the Information Integration Theory useful?

As enablers of change, it’s helpful to understand the different ways people have characterised change. Today we’re exploring one of the earliest models of change, the Information Integration Theory! 

Information Integration Theory (or IIT) is a theoretical framework developed by Norman Anderson in the 1970s to explain how people combine multiple pieces of information to form a single judgement. The theory proposes that people integrate information in a weighted and additive manner, meaning that they assign weights to each piece of information and combine them to arrive at an overall decision.

In our context, IIT can be used to understand how farmers process and integrate various pieces of information to make decisions about their farming practices. Extension projects are often designed to provide farmers with a range of information, usually related to the technology or practice that needs to change. We know though, that it’s not enough to simply provide farmers with this informationthey must also be able to integrate it into their existing knowledge and decision-making processes.

So going back to IIT, there are several factors that influence how people integrate information, including the relevance of the information, the credibility and source of the information, and the consistency of the information with existing beliefs and knowledge. All these factors help integrate new information into decision-making processes, so let’s work through these.

Firstly, the relevance of the information. If we think about our work with farmers, they are more likely to integrate information that is directly relevant to their farming practices and fits with how they make decisions. So we need to tailor the information to their specific needs and their context. For example, a farmer who specialises in livestock farming may not be as interested in information about cropping practices. We should prioritise the delivery of information that is relevant and actionable.

Secondly, the credibility of information is important. Farmers are more likely to integrate information from credible sources such as trusted advisors (who could be anyone from researchers to private agribusiness consultants), as well as other farmers who’ve successfully implemented the practices. Therefore, we may even decide our extension work should prioritise building relationships with those trusted advisors to get the right information to farmers. As always, it’s good to use success stories of farmers who have already implemented the practices.

The third and final factor is the consistency of new information with existing beliefs and knowledge.  Farmers are more likely to integrate new information that aligns with their existing beliefs and knowledge. Therefore, we need to build on that existing knowledge and practices when introducing new information. This can be achieved by highlighting the similarities between existing practices and the new information, and by using familiar language and concepts. We should also be mindful of the potential for resistance to change and work to address any concerns or misperceptions that they may have.

In conclusion, the Information Integration Theory provides a useful framework for understanding how we process and integrate new information into our decision-making processes. By understanding the factors that influence information integration, we can develop effective strategies for delivering information that is relevant, credible, and consistent with existing knowledge and beliefs. Ultimately, this can lead to better designed extension projects because the activities link and support the change that’s required.

Well, you’ve read our thoughts, now we’d like to hear yours! Add a comment below and tell us about your experiences with the Information Integration Theory, including any tips and further ideas about it. We don’t want this to be just a one-way conversationjoin in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! 

Resources

Anderson, N. H. (1968). A Simple Model for Information Integration. In R.P. Abelson, E. Aronson, W.J. McGuire, T.M. Newcomb, M.J. Rosenberg, & P.H. Tannenbaum (Eds.), Theories of Cognitive Consistency: A Sourcebook. Chicago: Rand McNally

Anderson, N.H. (1971). Integration theory and attitude change. Psychological review, 78(3), p.171.

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