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Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195378016
ISBN-10: 0195378016
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harvard law professor Sunstein (Radicals in Robes) explores the nature of group decision making, largely expounding on his contention that homogenous groups of like-minded people tend to adopt more extreme positions than groups with a diversity of opinions. As in his previous, coauthored book, Nudge, in which he argued that small incentives can subtly push people toward making better decisions, Sunstein marshals empirical evidence in aid of his argument, which largely focuses on politics and public policy. As President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Sunstein's ideas about such matters have now attained a level of national importance, but with the exception of a few notable potshots at the decision making in George W. Bush's White House, the book is not ideological and displays a keen interest in diverse areas ranging from the mindset that leads to genocide to how conspiracy theories form and are propagated. Interestingly, and most helpfully, Sunstein returns repeatedly to the recruitment and decision-making processes of Islamic terrorists, finding in these groups the purest example of the radicalizing echo chamber effect that the book warns against. (May)
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Review


"Cass Sunstein has written Going to Extremes for those confounded by a country that remains stubbornly polarized. In clear, precise language, he explains that extremism is a consequence of the company we keep. He challenges not only what we think, but how we come to our beliefs, and he demonstrates that diversity of thought is the one ingredient necessary for both a healthy state and a working democracy." --Bill Bishop, author of The Big Sort


"A path-breaking exploration of the perils and possibilities created by polarization among the like-minded."--Kathleen Hall Jamieson, co-author of unSpun and Echo Chamber


"Sunstein's book poses a powerful challenge to anyone concerned with the future of our democracy. He reveals the dark side to our cherished freedoms of thought, expression and participation. New strategies and new designs are required to make political discussion the constructive force our ideals prescribe. His book initiates an urgent dialogue which any thoughtful citizen should be interested in." --James S. Fishkin, author of When the People Speak


"Harvard law professor Sunstein (Radicals in Robes) explores the nature of group decision making, largely expounding on his contention that homogenous groups of like-minded people tend to adopt more extreme positions than groups with a diversity of opinions.... As President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Sunstein's ideas...[have] attained a level of national importance."--Publishers Weekly


"Cass Sunstein's work and theories have never been more important."--Seed


"meant to unsettle us in the way his earlier work did"--Slate


"An excellent study of the conditions that drive events like the financial crisis...a valuable survey of research pertinent to managers in various areas of finance, and it suggests a range of practical, utilizable approaches to improving decision-making processes."--The Investment Professional


"A fun book to read...Sunstein is a brilliant writer, learned and clever."--Contemporary Sociology


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195378016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195378016
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.9 x 5.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,416,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The book starts with something we all know, that it is more pleasant to talk with people that agree with you than with those that disagree with you. What we do not realize is that by acting this way we become "polarized". As all agree with what we think we start to believe that what we think is true. The author Cass Sunstein does an excellent job to make you aware of this happening and the consequences.

An extreme example is terrorists that form groups with extreme polarization. Most of these terrorists have experienced moral outrage, personal experience of discrimination, economic exclusion, even though many are well educated and come from middle-class families.

Polarization can be bad but also good like overthrowing the Lenin Communist system in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, or abolishing slavery in the United States.

The author presents his view as to what can be done to avoid bad polarization and tolerate good polarization. He believes the only answer is free speech and tolerance; acceptance and respect for diverse views, for diversity. He points out that dictatorships are breeding grounds for terrorism. Polarized groups objecting to dictatorships do not trust what the dictatorships claim to be the truth. Discrimination and outrage do the rest.

It is also relevant for business. Leaders that act like dictators will before or after their death ruin the company. A board of directors must contain members with different perspectives that forcefully argue with each other and management. Also at the level of management vigorous arguments about different perspectives are essential.
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Format: Hardcover
Sunstein will soon run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). This Agency conducts cost benefit analysis of regulations. So, it is interesting to know Sunstein mindset. Sunstein is also the coauthor of the excellent Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness where he fleshes out his political philosophy of Liberal Paternalism. After reading those two books, you get a feeling that the OIRA will be in extremely capable hands. Sunstein has a powerful and inquisitive intellect. He is also an excellent writer as his books are very easy to read despite covering rather dry topics.

Homogeneous groups polarize as they cause like-minded people to strengthen their positions by eliminating the balancing safeguard from diverging opinions. Sunstein demonstrates that no category individuals is exempt from this behavior. Even Federal judges were victim of it as their verdict were politically more polarized when they belonged to an homogeneous political panel (all three Judges from same political party) vs when they were not.

Regarding risk taking endeavors, if individuals are moderate risk avoiders after deliberating they will become more so. If they are moderate risk takers, the group will render them more extreme risk takers.

Group polarization occurs because individuals only exchange information that reinforces their initial views and exclude info that does not. Group polarization is stealthy. You join a group of like-minded people. You approve of what they say. Before you know it they turned you into an extremist.

The Bush Administration was an insular polarizing group.
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Format: Paperback
At roughly twice the length this is simply the longer version of Sunsteins book On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done. The main examples and core ideas are the same, there's a bit extra on bias and an index and bibliography at the back that the other lacks. Some of the extra material include a light comparison of the effectiveness of Presidential cabinet contrasting Lincoln's "Team of Rivals" to Bush's team of like minded people. It adds experiments and observations of the different behaviour of like minded and mixed groups of people in the polarization of their decisions, especially judges and jurors (mixing Democrats with Republicans) as well as community group, as well as an analysis of consciousness raising, conspiracy and terrorist groups.

Readers will also pick up some extra terminology, such as "crippled epistemology" - basically flawed belief systems, "homophily" - the idea that similarity breeds connection, Condorcet's "Jury Theorem", "sensibles" vs "haters" and "exit", the phenomenon where more moderate and possibly more motivated members of a group may choose to leave making the remaining group composition both more extreme and more compliant. However considering society as a whole, Sunstein does not see polarization as bad as different segments of society can make different social decisions that may either be more locally appropriate, or provide alternate communities to people who don't fit in one or another social group.
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