Why Societies Need Dissent
Cass R. Sunstein
Harvard Law School
Sunstein, Cass R., WHY SOCIETIES NEED DISSENT, Harvard University Press, September 2003
This book discusses social influences on individual behavior and the risk of error stemming from conformity. Special attention is given to three phenomena: individual conformity to erroneous positions held by group members; informational and reputational cascades; and group polarization, by which individuals end up in a more extreme position in line with their predeliberation tendencies. Applications include legal precedent; terrorism; the effects of largely unenforced law; jury behavior; judicial behavior on panels; free speech; and affirmative action. New data, discussing how judicial votes are affected by judicial colleagues, attests to the pervasiveness of conformity and group polarization. Taken as a whole, the evidence suggests the importance of individual disclosure and dissent to prevent errors by a wide range of social groups.
Note: This is a description of the book and not an actual excerpt.Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: September 3, 2003
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