10 Hierarchical Diffusion Examples (2022) - AP Human Geography (2022)

10 Hierarchical Diffusion Examples (2022) - AP Human Geography (1)

Hierarchical diffusion is one of six ways cultures can spread around the world (what we call ‘types of cultural diffusion’). What makes hierarchical diffusion unique is that it involves the spread of culture starting from the most powerful and influential people within the culture.

Once the influential people embrace a certain culture, the rest of the culture are more likely to follow.

It can occur both within a culture (such as the spread of a trend within the United States) as well as between different cultures (such as spreading elements of US culture to Asia).

Some examples of hierarchical diffusion include:

  • Parisian Fashion Diffusion
  • Royal Fashion Trends
  • Hollywood Trend Diffusion
  • Music Genres (rap, etc.)
  • The Spanish Inquisition
  • Religious Doctrine
  • Celebrity Tweets

Hierarchical diffusion is a very common type of diffusion in the 21st Century. Companies and brands will often pay influential people (such as ‘Instagram Influencers’) to wear their clothes or use their products to try to influence entire youth subcultures. But it was also common in the past, especially in European monarchies, where the kings and queens would be the trendsetters for everyone else to follow.

Below are some of the best examples of hierarchical diffusion.

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(Video) Types of Diffusion [AP Human Geography]

Hierarchical Diffusion Examples

1. Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain – The Spanish Inquisition

The example most commonly used in AP Human Geography courses is that of Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon. These two separate kingdoms were united by the marriages of Ferdinand and Isabella and led to the de facto unification of Spain. We say ‘de facto’ because the unification did not become official for a long time later. Nonetheless, through their marriage, they brought together the two kingdoms culturally and socially.

Some reforms they implemented including the Reconquista, which involved the forced conversions of Jews and Muslims to Christianity. This type of ‘forced diffusion’ was common in Medieval Europe, and particularly in Catholic Spain.

Because these (rather brutal) cultural reforms were enforced from the top in society, we consider this to be a quintessential example of hierarchical diffusion.

2. Schoolyard ‘Cool Kids’

The easiest way to explain hierarchical diffusion is to relate it back to when you were in school. You may have seen the ‘cool kids’ in your class adopt a trend. Because they were cool, you may have wanted to imitate them and copy the trend.

If it was a not-so-cool kid in the class who adopted a trend you might not have been as interested in doing it. That’s because people with high social regard (what we often call ‘social capital’) will often be the trendsetters in a society. You want to be seen as being more like the cool kids and less like the uncool kids.

3. Hollywood Films

Hollywood films will often be used to spread culture around the United States and the world. There are two ways they do this.

First, Hollywood films often depict internationally famous actors like Brad Pitt and Zac Efron wearing the newest fashion trends. This can be the trendsetter for distributing those new fashions to the masses. By starting ‘at the top’ with the famous actors and spreading the culture from those influencers down, this is a classic example of hierarchical diffusion of culture.

Second, Hollywood films are a super-spreader of US culture around the world. A Hollywood film will make its way to cinemas around the globe more than any others. We often call the spread of US culture in the age of Globalization “Americanization”, which is something many anti-globalists rail against.

(Video) Diffusion (AP Human Geography)

(Note that this second example also has strong elements of expansion diffusion).

4. Religious Doctrine in the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church is a notoriously centralized institution. All changes to Catholic doctrine must come from the top. They hold authority over interpretations of scripture as well as positions on controversial issues like sexuality and abortion.

When the Church makes a change to their doctrine, it ‘trickles down’ throughout the entire culture of the Catholic Church. It affects the conversations and even actions of priests and laypeople throughout the world. This hierarchical way in which culture is diffused is one of the most regimented examples because it’s non-organic. For the Church, there are explicit rules and instructions on how culture is policed and changed.

5. Talk Back Radio Hosts

For politicized talk back hosts, they have the ability to inspire entire movements for and against cultural issues like gay marriage (in the early 2010s).

Talk back radio hosts such as the late Rush Limbaugh revolutionized political culture in the United States. For Limbaugh in particular, he vocalized many populist right-wing views that emboldened many people in the United States to become politically active in movements like the Tea Party and Trump Republicans.

The power talk back radio hosts have – to talk to millions of people every morning – makes them oversized influencers. When they say something, they will be able to influence large groups of people across a culture.

6. Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the US national anthem in 2016 in protest against the treatment of black people by police. At the time he was widely criticized by the conservative establishment within the NFL as well as many fans. He was not signed to any football teams in subsequent years, potentially due to his political views.

However, Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem also led to a groundswell of support and was an influential moment in pushing the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. This footballer used his position as a powerful cultural influencer to bring about cultural change from the top down.

7. Parisian Fashion

Paris is known as a fashion capital of the world. The fashions that come out of Paris influence the Western world and have done so for centuries. Paris Fashion Week occurs twice per year where influential fashion designers release their new designs. These designs can filter down to yearly fashions and influence other fashion shows around the world.

(Video) Relocation & Expansion Diffusion [AP Human Geography Unit 3 Topic 4] (3.4)

8. Royal Fashion

Similarly, the fashion of royals spread throughout the world. Marie Antoinette is famous for being a French fashion icon who changed up fashion in her time. She embraced the chemise á la Reine (fashion of the Gaulle) which upset the traditional fashion of the nobility. Many nobles copied her fashion, but it also led to widespread criticism from the French people and lesser nobility that her fashion sense was excessive and even too sexualized for the times.

Today, royal watchers continue to observe the fashions of royalty closely. This is mostly the case with the British royalty who remain the most eminent Western royal family of the 21st Century. However, in republics such as the United States, it is often celebrities such as Beyoncé who are the new royalty and are looked upon for their fashion trends.

9. Paid Celebrity Tweets

Today, there is an enormous industry built up around celebrity ‘influencers’ sending out tweets and Instagram photos of themselves using their favorite brands. The use of the brands by high-powered social icons is clearly seen as paying dividends for brands given that they pay extraordinary sums of money for a single tweet or photo. According to inc.com Chloe Kardashian can attract up to $8,000 for a single tweet of a brand or product.

10. Government Laws and Decrees

Another prominent way cultural diffusion occurs is through government laws. In this case, it’s a form of ‘forced hierarchical diffusion’. The powerful people in society demand cultural change through outlawing certain behaviors. This is similar to the Spanish Inquisition example earlier in this piece.

But today there are many examples of this. One might be the widespread legalization of gay marriage in the early 2010s in the Western world. Nations like Canada, the UK and the USA legalized gay marriage, partially due to a bottom-up groundswell (the opposite of hierarchical diffusion). But once the government went about legalizing the practice, a return hierarchical effect was seen within instructions. For example, in some countries health insurance providers were no longer allowed to discriminate based on sexuality.

Through government laws, cultural change can be normalized both in legal and business institutions as well as the behaviors of people over time. Things that were once considered outside the norms can become mainstream if the government legalizes and accepts those behaviors within a culture.


  • Examples of Contexts
  • Contagious Diffusion Examples
  • Relocation Diffusion Examples


These examples of hierarchical diffusion can overlap with other examples, like expansionist and forced diffusion. So, they’re not mutually exclusive. But if you’re using one of these examples, I’d recommend mentioning that it could also be considered another type of confusion at the same time if you feel this is the case. That will show the person grading your work that you’ve got a thorough understanding of cultural diffusion and related concepts like cultural adaptation.

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

(Video) [AP Human Geography]Types of Diffusion | Hearth |Relocation Expansion Diffusion|Unit 1|세인트폴 학생의 지식나눔

(Video) Types of Diffusion [AP Human Geography Unit 3 Topic 4]


What is an example of hierarchical diffusion in AP Human Geography? ›

Which is an example of hierarchical diffusion? Hip-hop music spreading from the inner cities to the suburbs throughout the United States. Buddhist ideology spreading throughout the Indian subcontinent.

What type of diffusion is McDonald's? ›

Example of Stimulus Diffusion

McDonalds still has the same 'fast food theme' and Golden arches throughout the world, but the foods and other things may change to fit the culture of the place it is in. McDonald's success also inspired a growth of competitors who used their food assembly model.

Which is the best example of reverse hierarchical diffusion? ›

Definition: Reverse Hierarchical Diffusion: Expansion diffusion in which ideas spread from area to area by ways of small towns, temporarily bypassing urban areas. Examples include Wal-Mart when it first began by spreading across small cities in Arkansas.

What is an example of diffusion in geography? ›

Expansion diffusion is when innovations spread to new places while staying strong in their original locations. For example, Islam has spread throughout the world, yet stayed strong in the Middle East, where it was founded.

Is religion an example of hierarchical diffusion? ›

Religion uses nearly all forms of diffusion to reproduce itself across space. Hierarchical diffusion generally involves the conversion of a king, emperor, or other leader who then influences others to convert.

Is rap music an example of hierarchical diffusion? ›

Cartographic analysis was based on the hometowns of 1124 rappers and the release dates of their debut albums from 1979 to 2015. The diffusion of rap followed the hierarchical diffusion pattern by leapfrogging from one major urban area to another.

What kind of diffusion is Apple? ›

Technological. It's easy to find a technological cultural diffusion, as technology seems to spread fast. For example, Apple.

Which is an example of hierarchical diffusion? ›

Answer and Explanation: Sports is an example of hierarchical diffusion because it spreads from authorities, such as the teams themselves, down through broadcasters, analysts, and other media, to the broad base of fans. This is how other hierarchical diffusion takes place too.

How is fashion hierarchical diffusion? ›

Hierarchical diffusion is a very common type of diffusion in the 21st Century. Companies and brands will often pay influential people (such as 'Instagram Influencers') to wear their clothes or use their products to try to influence entire youth subcultures.

What is hierarchical diffusion quizlet? ›

Hierarchical Diffusion. spread of a feature or trend from one key person or node of authority or power to other persons or places. Contagious Diffusion. rapid, widespread diffusion of a feature or trend throughout a population(disease).

What are the 5 types of diffusion? ›

Relocation, expansion, contagious, hierarchical, and stimulus diffusion.

What is a good example of diffusion? ›

diffusion, process resulting from random motion of molecules by which there is a net flow of matter from a region of high concentration to a region of low concentration. A familiar example is the perfume of a flower that quickly permeates the still air of a room.

What are the 6 types of diffusion? ›

There are six types of cultural diffusion:
  • Relocation Diffusion.
  • Expansion Diffusion.
  • Contagious Diffusion.
  • Hierarchical Diffusion.
  • Stimulus Diffusion.
  • Maladaptive Diffusion.
23 Feb 2021

What are 3 examples of simple diffusion? ›

Example of Simple Diffusion

In the cell, examples of molecules that can use simple diffusion to travel in and out of the cell membrane are water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, ethanol and urea.

What are 4 examples of cultural diffusion? ›

There are four main types of cultural diffusion: contagious, hierarchical, stimulus, and relocation diffusion. The first three of these fall under the larger category of expansion diffusion. Diffusion can happen through the mechanisms trade, technology, migration, and colonization.

Is pop culture hierarchical diffusion? ›

Pop customs tend to diffuse rapidly and primarily through hierarchical diffusion from the nodes. (Certain fads can diffuse contagiously)

What are 3 examples of cultural diffusion? ›

Common Cultural Diffusions

For example, jazz started as a blend of the music of Africa and the Caribbean. Southern cities in the United States, especially border towns, have signs in both English and Spanish. The popularity of sushi, a traditional Japanese dish, shows diffusion of Japanese cuisine.

Are animal songs hierarchical? ›

Humans talk, sing and play music. Some species of birds and whales sing long and complex songs. All these behaviours and sounds exhibit hierarchical structure-syllables and notes are positioned within words and musical phrases, words and motives in sentences and musical phrases, and so on.

What type of diffusion is Spanish? ›

One of the most common examples of relocation diffusion is the spread of a language. For instance, Spanish as we know it is the result of relocation diffusion.

What type of diffusion are computers? ›

Example of Relocation Diffusion: Technology such as computers, the internet, telephone, TV, etc.

Is coffee an example of diffusion? ›

Whenever you smell the lovely smell of fresh coffee or drop a tea bag into hot water you're benefiting from diffusion: the fact that particles moving at random under the influence of thermal energy spread themselves around.

Is McDonald's an example of stimulus diffusion? ›

Hindus do not eat beef. Indian McDonald's serve veggie burgers, which is culturally acceptable. The idea (McDonald's burgers) was acceptable, but not in its original form – hence stimulus diffusion.

Is Tea an example of diffusion? ›

As the water is added to the teabag it causes the tea leaves to move and triggers diffusion of the leaves. Diffusion is defined as the movement of a substance from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration.

Which of the following is an example of hierarchical diffusion 2 points? ›

Which of the following is an example of hierarchical diffusion? An acculturated group's culture has adopted some traits of a host culture; the assimilated group's indigenous culture has completely adopted traits of a host culture.

What are the 2 examples of diffusion in science? ›

A tea bag immersed in a cup of hot water will diffuse into the water and change its colour. A spray of perfume or room freshener will get diffused into the air by which we can sense the odour. Sugar gets dissolved evenly and sweetens the water without having to stir it.

What is an example of a hierarchical religion? ›

The Roman Catholic Church is a good example of a hierarchical religion, with its well-defined geographical structure and division of territory into local administrative units.

What is hierarchical diffusion simple? ›

Hierarchical Diffusion is when an idea spreads by passing first among the most connected individuals, then spreading to other individuals. Think of the chain of command in businesses, and the government. There's somewhat of a hierarchy in terms of position of authority. Examples of hierarchical diffusion.

How is hierarchical diffusion connected to popular culture? ›

Hierarchical diffusion plays prominently in popular culture diffusion. Larger places tend to generate many of pop culture's hit songs, clothing styles, and food trends. Diffusion in popular culture is highly related to technology. Although it wasn't invented as such, the internet has become a venue for advertisement.

Is Walmart contagious diffusion? ›

In recent years it has expanded into metropolitan areas in order to serve more completely the U. S. market. The firm's expansion pattern has been characterized by elements of both neighborhood contagious diffusion and reverse hierarchical diffusion. Key Words: contagious diffusion.

What is hierarchical diffusion AP Human? ›

Hierarchical diffusion. Occurs when the diffusion innovation or concept spreads from a place or person of power or high susceptibility to another in a leveled pattern. Stimulus diffusion.

What type of diffusion was Christianity? ›

Christianity spread through relocation diffusion by missionaries and hierarchical diffusion when the Roman Empire made Christianity its official religion. Christianity became the dominant religion in North and South America because of the early explorers and colonizers from Europe were Christians.

What is diffusion 7th grade? ›

Diffusion is the movement of particles from high to low concentration. Diffusion is the method our body uses to get oxygen into our cells, and carbon dioxide out. Osmosis is the diffusion of water molecules through a cell membrane.

What are the 4 ways of spreading diseases? ›

Germs can spread from person to person through:
  • the air as droplets or aerosol particles.
  • faecal-oral spread.
  • blood or other body fluids.
  • skin or mucous membrane contact.
  • sexual contact.
15 Jan 2021

What are the 7 ways pathogens spread? ›

Some microorganisms can be transmitted by more than one route.
  • Direct Contact Transmission. ...
  • Fomite Transmission. ...
  • Aerosol (Airborne) Transmission. ...
  • Oral (Ingestion) Transmission. ...
  • Vector-Borne Transmission. ...
  • Zoonotic Transmission.

What are the 4 types of spatial diffusion? ›

This kind of proliferation is known as spatial diffusion. The three main types of this phenomenon are expansion diffusion, stimulus diffusion, and relocation diffusion.

What is diffusion 9th grade? ›

Definition: The process of movement of a substance (solid, liquid, or gas) from the region of higher concentration to the region of lower concentration so as to spread uniformly is called diffusion. In the process of diffusion the molecules of the one substance mix with the molecule of the other substance.

What is Key Stage 3 diffusion? ›

Key points

Diffusion is the movement of particles from higher to lower concentrations. Diffusion happens naturally and so does not require energy. Substances like oxygen, carbon dioxide and glucose move in and out of cells by diffusion.

Is breathing an example of diffusion? ›

Diffusion is the process whereby gases move from an area of high pressure to low pressure. This includes during - Internal respiration - this is the movement in the internal tissues between cells and capillaries, and - External respiration - when gas is exchanged between the alveoli and lung capillaries.

Is making tea osmosis or diffusion? ›

At the same time, tiny particles from the tea leaves begin to dissolve and move throughout the cup, wherever there is a lower concentration of tea particles. The process of particles moving from higher to lower concentration is called diffusion.

Which is an example of diffusion quizlet? ›

List examples of diffusion. Food coloring entering the egg. Oxygen moves from the lungs into the bloodstream.

What is diffusion Class 9 Example? ›

Answer: Diffusion is a process of mixing of two substances kept in contact. Diffusion is due to molecular motion. If a jar of chlorine is opened in a large room, the odorous gas mixes with air and spreads to every part of the room.

What is an example of diffusion in history? ›

Diffusion: the spread of ideas, languages and technologies from one area to another. Trade and human migration often lead to diffusion. The spread of Islam to South Asia or Buddhism to East Asia are examples of diffusion.

What are examples of diffusion in humans? ›

Exchange of gases in the lungs occurs by diffusion. Air in the alveoli has a higher concentration of oxygen and lower concentration of carbon dioxide compared to blood. Hence, oxygen diffuses to the blood from alveoli and carbon dioxide diffuses to alveoli from the blood.

Is perfume an example of simple diffusion? ›

Since perfume is either a gas or liquid thus, in both cases it can easily get mixed with the air particles. This mixing of perfume particles into the air and reaching the other corner of the room is through the process of diffusion.

What spread through hierarchical diffusion? ›

Hierarchical diffusion involves the spreading of culture via mentifacts from one or a few people to many people, sometimes through tiers; the system can be visualized as a pyramid.

What are 4 examples of diffusion? ›

Some examples of diffusion that occurs in our daily life are given below.
  • The smell of perfumes/Incense Sticks.
  • Opening the Soda/Cold Drinks bottle and the CO2 diffuses in the air.
  • Dipping the tea bags in hot water will diffuse the tea in hot water.
  • Small dust particles or smoke diffuse into the air and cause air pollution.

What are 3 examples of cultural diffusion today? ›

Common Cultural Diffusions

For example, jazz started as a blend of the music of Africa and the Caribbean. Southern cities in the United States, especially border towns, have signs in both English and Spanish. The popularity of sushi, a traditional Japanese dish, shows diffusion of Japanese cuisine.

What is an example of cultural hierarchy? ›

The military is a great example of a hierarchy culture, as it is all about individuals working to perform certain tasks or roles within a particular rank. In the military, each rank reports to the one above it. One of the benefits of this is that each individual has a clearly defined role and path to achieve success.

What are 3 examples of pop culture? ›

The most common forms of popular culture are movies, music, television, video games, sports, entertainment news, fashion, and various forms of technology.

What are the 4 types of cultural diffusion? ›

There are four main types of cultural diffusion: contagious, hierarchical, stimulus, and relocation diffusion. The first three of these fall under the larger category of expansion diffusion. Diffusion can happen through the mechanisms trade, technology, migration, and colonization.


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