Silencing Our Elders

18 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2016

Date Written: October 1, 2015


Lawyers, and the practice of law generally, tend to focus on words and speech. As wordsmiths, lawyers take great pains to choose the precise word that reflects the specific meaning they wish to convey, and they pride themselves on their ability to persuade, especially in the contexts of oral advocacy in the courtroom and negotiation. Lawyers, correctly, view words and speech as powerful. But there is another powerful tool in a lawyer’s arsenal that receives virtually no recognition or attention: silence. As a general matter, Americans tend to be uncomfortable with silences, and thus rush to fill them. This general societal discomfort with silence also affects interpretations of silence. In the United States, there is a tendency to view silence negatively — to view silence as being indicative of, among other things, weakness, avoidance, lack of preparation, or deception. This article employs interdisciplinary research from the fields of law, psychology, philosophy, and communication to explore the value of silence — and its overlooked power and pitfalls — particularly when silence bias overlaps with age bias.

Keywords: bias, silence, age, elders, interdisciplinary, psychology

Suggested Citation

Bassett, Debra Lyn, Silencing Our Elders (October 1, 2015). Nevada Law Journal, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2015, Available at SSRN:

Debra Lyn Bassett (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics