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Confidence, Influence and Leadership

For the past two years, the name of this reading group was Why are People So Sure? For this year, we have changed the name--and the emphasis to a degree. As in the past, we will discuss books that address the phenomenon of people having great confidence in their beliefs or opinions, even when there is a reasonable possibility that they are wrong. For example, many arguments about politics or policy involve highly complex factual assumptions and predictions. Despite the difficulty of assessing the validity of factual assumptions and forecasting the consequences of any particular decision, many people maintain great confidence in the correctness of their beliefs. Why is that? In addition, some people are very successful in influencing other people with respect to such beliefs or opinions. How do they do that, and what makes their audience susceptible to being convinced? In the extreme, what allows this sort of person to be a leader or at least a "thought leader" (to use what regrettably seems to be a new entry into our lexicon)? In this discussion group, we will read books that engage these questions in diverse ways. Students that join the group will be expected to be full participants in the discussion. Neither of us is an expert in the topic and neither of us expects to have any more to say than you will. So please join us only if you find this format appealing. Another requirement of the group will be to create a written log, or summary, of what we read and discuss. We will all share responsibility for writing this. Begin in Autumn Quarter and run through Winter Quarter. Class meeting dates: To be determined by instructor. DISCUSSIONS IN ETHICAL & PROFESSIONAL VALUES COURSES RANKING FORM: To apply for this course, 2L, 3L and Advanced Degree students must complete and submit a Ranking Form available on the SLS Registrar's Office website (see Registration and Selection of Classes for Stanford Law Students and then see Consent of Instructor Forms). See Ranking Form for instructions and submission deadline..

2014-2015 Winter
01/05/2015 - 03/09/2015

Instructors for this course (Past and Present)

Ralph Richard Banks
Michael Klausner