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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Deliberation and Disagreement

In a paper at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Kevin M. Esterling, Archon Fung, and Taeku Lee look at a natural experiment in which some 3000 people split into small groups and deliberated about health care reform in California. They note that deliberation "requires individuals to listen to one another and to adjust their own views and positions in light of what they hear." They ask an important question:
Are we the kind of creatures who will respond positively -- by tolerating, listening and adjusting in this way --when we engage in deliberation with those who hold with diverse views and who disagree with us? Or, do we recoil from disagreement, entrenching our positions, resenting those who challenge them, perhaps lose confidence in our own positions, and suffer in silence?
From the experiment, they find that "individuals are more likely to learn, to change their minds, to enjoy, and to regard as worthwhile deliberations in which there are moderate levels of disagreement."