Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide

Cass R. Sunstein, Author . Oxford Univ. $21.95 (199p) ISBN 978-0-19-537801-6

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)

Reviewed on: 03/16/2009
Release date: 05/01/2009
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