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Conformity: The Power of Social Influences

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  176 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Bestselling author Cass R. Sunstein reveals the appeal and the danger of conformity

We live in an era of tribalism, polarization, and intense social division--separating people along lines of religion, political conviction, race, ethnicity, and sometimes gender. How did this happen? In Conformity, Cass R. Sunstein argues that the key to making sense of living in this fractu
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published May 28th 2019 by New York University Press
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Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The 21st century is, in many ways, the era of social influence. Social media has transformed the way both factual information and propaganda are delivered, business and political agendas are furthered and social norms are formed. Social influence is quite powerful. Compliance, obedience and conformity are all manifested via it. This book is extremely a propos and very thought provoking. Author Cass R. Sunstein examines the ‘hows’, the ‘whys’ and the effects of conformity and dissent in a logical ...more
Jun 27, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was a mixed bag for me.
Author Cass Sunstein starts off with a decent intro to the book, talking about the power of social norms in keeping societies cohesive and people in line with the current social orthodoxy.
He then covers the Asch experiments, and the Milgram experiments. All standard fare in a book about sociology.
He talks about the power of social cascades, which was interesting.
He also covers the importance of free speech, which is somewhat tragically underscored these days.
Amit Verma
Feb 08, 2019 rated it liked it
My rating is 3.5/5 Thanks netgalley and author for ARC.
It is surprising that how few people can see things from different perspective and present and teach this to other people. This book discusses thing that we do everyday without appreciating their weight.
.This work by C Sunsteiin discusses vital role of phenomenon of conformity in the life of humans.
He intellectually dissects role of conformity in every aspect of human interactions right from prehistoric times to present socioeconomic inter
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
In 1972, the social psychologist Irving L. Janis coined the term “Groupthink.” This term was employed to define a psychological phenomenon under which people endeavor to strike a consensus within a group. In most instances, people even set aside their own personal beliefs and philosophies before adopting the consensus of the rest of the group. People going against the overriding ‘group tide’ tend to maintain a veneer of stoic silence and quietude, often preferring not to rock the boat and let th ...more
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mr. Cass Sunstein, author and scientist of popular fame in recent years, explains (and I do mean ‘explains’ literally, the focus is on offering many arguments, case studies and experiments) issues like group-think, informational cascades, polarization in like-minded groups, the power (and relative rarity) of dissent and how we take these biases and embed them into public institutions. Mr Sustein argues that diversity is great, although hard to implement at many times. The book is quite narrowed ...more
Charles J
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
In "Conformity," Cass Sunstein takes common sense about how decisions are informed, and distorted, by social pressure and makes it both better and worse. Better, because he shows why common sense is confirmed by logic and experiment. Worse, because he makes it feel pedantic. But if you reflect on the discussions in this book, and apply them to current events and your own thinking, you can get some interest and excitement back into your brain, and maybe benefit yourself and society as well.

I like
David Wineberg
Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Cass Sunstein discovers sheeple

The presence of people colors discussion and decisions. It is a factor that can change the status of anything. In Conformity, Cass Sunstein explores a lot of the risks of being swayed for the wrong reasons.

Conformity comes in flavors like cascades and polarization. The cascade effect occurs when others have made their choice. Subconscious pressure makes the last person agree. And this cascade effect can spread everywhere, through whole populations, last forever, an
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was ok
Decent content but not much point reading this book if you’ve read other Sunstein books - regurgitated info and example studies. Didn’t gain enough new insight to warrant a higher rating. I wouldn’t go out of my way to hunt this book down.
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A well-written simple introduction to the (good and bad) power of conformity.
Bookish Dervish
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
HOMO SAPIENS, like many other species, tend to conform to the norms created by the others. This is scary, as we often decide on various random choices through our life. Our, previously thoughtful, decisions should be reconsidered when possible.
One post on Facebook for instance may gain more attention because of the website's algorithms and because we prefer to aline with others.
The book explains a number of experiments run on animals as well as on humans.
Very thoughtful and Eye-opening book.
Tonstant Weader
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Conformity is the most recent book by the prolific Cass R. Sunstein. This time he is looking at how our innate desire to fit in with those in our group, however we define our group, can lead to good decisions or bad decisions, how it can lead to polarization and even extremism, and what can help us to better decision making.

Sunstein digs deeply into the research on conforming from the shocking Milgram and Sherif studies of the past to more nuanced and ethical modern research. It was interesting
Fraser Kinnear
Dec 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, policy
Sunstein starts with describing psychological research (Asch Conformity, Sherif group norms, and Milgram experiment obedience) to understand how conformity arises in group settings. But rather than leave us with some “gee whiz” conclusions about our own behavior, Sunstein has a policy agenda in mind for jurisprudence.

Avoid cascading erroneous legal decisions through improved resourcing in lower courts. Diminish conformity in judge panels through sustaining a diversity of appointments from our t
Seema Rao
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well-researched ~ Compelling ~ Readable

tl;dr: Easy to read non-fiction book that helps make sense of the human desire to conform and the ways this affects society.

This book is wonderfully written, though in a somewhat academic tone. As someone who enjoys a strong argument, thorough academic grounding, and then a conclusion, this book is right on. But, it is not quite as readable as the Gladwell forms of mass-market non-fiction. That said, this book is fabulous for those of us trying to make sen
I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I found this to be a really accessible introduction to sociology and how can we study conformity. It talks about a couple of really famous studies that I've heard of before (such as the Milgram experiment), and it was interesting to actually get all the details of how these studies were conducted, as well as what the findings of similar studies are.

The latter half of the book focuses on Sunstein's own area of expertise (the U.S
Andrew Pregnall
Conformity: The Power of Social Influences by Cass R Sunstein discussed the important role of dissent in organizations from the leve of PTAs to entire democracies. While the point is well-taken, Sunstein could have presented his ideas in a briefer article in The Atlantic or The New Yorker without losing much power. (And, in fact, Sunstein expanded the book from a lecture he delivered at Harvard Law School some years ago.) Most of the book read like a run-of-the-mill review of famous psychology a ...more
Lorenzo Barberis Canonico
I agree so much with Sunstein that the objective of the decentralized nature of the US government and of the separation of powers is to forego the benefits of central planning to constraints the government’s ability to fall prey to a cascade or thought bubble! He goes to great lengths to identify the social psychology behind conformity, and the positive and negative role it can play in collective behavior. None of this is surprising since he is one of the co-authors of “Nudge”, although it’s use ...more
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sheeple. I think we are probably all guilty of conformity sometimes. I'm pretty nonconformist for lots of reasons and it's always interesting to me when I see folks around me falling into line over stuff, even if they disagree with the ideas being presented! I have always encouraged my family members to speak out or act, or at least question things. there really is nothing more damaging than everyone going with the flow, or just doing it and not making waves. People really repeat mistakes. This ...more
Liz Norell
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Were I less familiar with classic social psychology and it's scientific studies (e.g. Asch, Milgram, etc.), I definitely would've gotten a lot out of this short-ish primer on the importance of social influences in our decision-making. And don't get me wrong; this slim volume wasn't entirely a rehash of prior learning for me. I was especially intrigued by the studies that Sunstein shares around outcomes of judicial panels given different patterns of ideological crosswinds. Still, I believe there ...more
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
How many different books can be made out of the same three or four social science experiments? If you're one of the five or six people on Earth that haven't heard of the Stanley Milgram experiments, you're in luck. Otherwise, this is a pretty generic book w/o much depth - although it's better written than most similar pop-psych books. ...more
Guido Calderini
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author is able to take an interesting idea and explore it without falling into the trap in which so many social scientists fall, i.e. writing a 300-page monster with a single thesis. Short and sweet, this book is definitely worth reading to anyone interested in behavioural psychology and its applications.
Meghan Mccullers
Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Listened to the audiobook. Some good information but didn’t hold my interest consistently. He makes an argument for a more diverse judiciary and for (narrowly applied) affirmative action both of which seem reasonable to me. I took home a few ideas but was overall relieved that it was over.
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Some light reading for this long weekend. It was relatively dullbut with the context of this toilet paper epidemic it was interesting to read why people act so crazy when all evidence doesnot support those actions.
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Something to consider, not too bad but too much of variations of same old same old and politics.
Kent Winward
Jun 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Conformity: The Power of Cass Sunstein to Conform to His Prior Work
Samer Chidiac
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional Book!
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Good material. Dry reading.
Hazel Bright
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
A reiteration of all of the same studies described in previous books about elevator conformity with a dash of Facebook/Twitter are destroying the world. Nothing new here.
Niklas Laninge
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it
A nice idea-book mainly aimed at people living in the US.
Paul moved to LibraryThing
Sep 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
Describing the same old social experiments and then waffling about diversity.
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Cass R. Sunstein is an American legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioral economics, who currently is the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration. For 27 years, Sunstein taught at the University of Chicago Law School, where he continues to teach as ...more

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