Review of Conformity

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Rating

8

Qualities

  • Analytical
  • For Experts
  • Eloquent

Review

In revealing how conformity works, prolific legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein discusses the dangers of social dynamics and how group opinions can shift to extremes. Anyone can follow the crowd, Sunstein notes, but dissenting can generate social benefits by reducing extremism and polarization. If you don’t speak legalese, you may find this a challenging read, but Sunstein is always thoughtful. Lawyers, policy makers, and those who may face jury duty or serve on other boards and would like to know how social pressure affects decision making will benefit from his insights.

About the Author

Harvard professor Cass R. Sunstein, JD, also wrote Can It Happen Here?, The Cost-Benefit Revolution, Going to Extremes, On Freedom, How Change Happens and The World According to Star Wars.

 

Social dynamics influence how public opinions form, how juries reach decisions and how “social cascades” start. 

Sunstein asks how people influence one another through social interaction? He finds that a number of dynamics affect the outcome of a group’s deliberations and its decisions.

Imagine that a number of people get together to discuss climate change. At the outset, individuals have their own views. Once the debate starts, their views can change. Observations of group processes, Sunstein reveals, show that people end up with more extreme views after a group debate. “Political extremism,” the author writes, “is often a product of group polarization.”


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