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Cognition and Strategy: a Deliberation Experiment

By Eric S. Dickson, Catherine Hafer and Dimitri Landa


A theory of deliberation must provide a plausible account both of individuals ’ choices to speak or to listen and of how they reinterpret their own views in the aftermath of deliberation. We describe a game-theoretic laboratory experiment in which subjects with diverse interests speak or listen before voting over a common outcome. An important feature of our strategic setting is that introspective agents may, upon hearing an unpersuasive argument, update away from the speaker’s preferred position. While subjects are responsive to strategic incentives, they also deviate from Bayesian predictions by ‘‘overspeaking’ ’ when speech is likelier to alienate than persuade. Subjects thus come closer to the deliberative democratic ideal of a free exchange of arguments than equilibrium predictions suggest. We interpret evidence from subjects ’ deliberative choices and policy votes in terms of a cognitive hierarchy among subjects, defined by differing abilities to grasp the strategic implications of different kinds of information. Recent trends of thought in democratic theory have emphasized the positive effects that deliberation may have, via one mechanism or another, on the outcomes and legitimacy of collective decision making (Cohen 1997; Elster 1997; Habermas 1990; Manin 1987). In particular, decision

Year: 2005
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