Self-Silencing and Online Learning

Forthcoming, Journal of Legal Education

Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 20-37

10 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2020 Last revised: 3 Dec 2020

See all articles by Cass R. Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: July 29, 2020


Social influences play a large role in legal education, and they may lead to self-silencing, group polarization, hidden profiles, and cascade effects. In some cases, class discussion may converge on a view that is, in fact, supported by only a minority of students, who do not hear what others actually think or have to say. In other cases, the view is supported by a majority, but uninformed by the minority or minorities. The result can be a failure to take advantage of the information, experiences, or perspectives that students actually have. Given a certain distribution of social norms, or bad luck, conservative students might be silenced; the same is true of students with certain religious convictions, libertarian students, students with far-left views, female students, and students of color. Online learning might be designed or used in such a way as to reduce the relevant risks.

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., Self-Silencing and Online Learning (July 29, 2020). Forthcoming, Journal of Legal Education, Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 20-37, Available at SSRN:

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2291 (Phone)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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