Search the KHIT Blog

Saturday, March 30, 2019

A "Science of Deliberation"?

As regular readers know, I am firmly on the side of science--specifically the "scientific method(s)," warts and all. But, what about "political discourse," which seems more than ever overpopulated with noisy, demagogic fact-averse partisans and ad hominem rhetorical bomb-tossers? After all, the phrase "political science" is unhappily viewed by many as a contradiction in terms.

Interesting piece in Science Magazine (paywalled):

The crisis of democracy and the science of deliberation

That there are more opportunities than ever for citizens to express their views may be, counterintuitively, a problem facing democracy—the sheer quantitative overabundance overloads policymakers and citizens, making it difficult to detect the signal amid the noise. This overload has been accompanied by marked decline in civility and argumentative complexity. Uncivil behavior by elites and pathological mass communication reinforce each other. How do we break this vicious cycle? Asking elites to behave better is futile so long as there is a public ripe to be polarized and exploited by demagogues and media manipulators. Thus, any response has to involve ordinary citizens; but are they up to the task? Social science on “deliberative democracy” offers reasons for optimism about citizens' capacity to avoid polarization and manipulation and to make sound decisions. The real world of democratic politics is currently far from the deliberative ideal, but empirical evidence shows that the gap can be closed.

Declining civility in interactions among elected representatives decreases citizens' trust in democratic institutions. The more polarized (and uncivil) that political environments get, the less citizens listen to the content of messages and the more they follow partisan cues (1) or simply drop out of participating. Declining complexity in arguments means a growing mismatch between the simple solutions offered by political leaders and real complex problems. This decline combines with post-truth politics and the displacement of facts and evidence by the felt truth of “cultural cognition,” in which social identity conditions opinion, as seen clearly on climate change.

A long tradition of survey research in political science—going back to the 1950s—yields skeptical conclusions about citizen competence. Claims that people vote mainly guided by group identity, oblivious to reasons for or against candidates or policies (2), can fuel arguments against democracy and in favor of, for example, an “epistocracy” of government by wise elites (3). Not all survey research is so skeptical about citizen capacities; some treat cues from leaders and groups as useful cognitive shortcuts. But all survey research is “monological” in that it obtains evidence only about the capacity of the individual in isolation to reason about politics.

Psychological research shows that even if people are bad solitary reasoners, they can be good group problem-solvers (4). Individual reasoning can improve under the right social conditions (for example, ones that generate alternative viewpoints for the individual to consider), thus enabling the more positive assessment of individual reasoning found in cognitive and decision psychology (as opposed to social and political psychology) to come to the fore. Human life is indeed group life, but not in pathological form (5). Thus, research focused on individuals in isolation is not a strong match for the novel aspect of the contemporary crisis of democracy, which is a crisis of communication, not of individual reasoning, the virtues and flaws of which remain much as they have always been…

Deliberative Democracy
The science of deliberative democracy seeks evidence on the capacities of citizens as they engage democratic dialogue, not as they respond as isolated individuals to survey questions (or even as they respond in social psychological experiments that fail to capture key democratic features). In addition to focusing on individual knowledge, preference, and voting, deliberative democracy also incorporates inclusive participation that encompasses citizens and leaders, mutual justification, listening, respect, reflection, and openness to persuasion. The field of deliberative democracy could be viewed as going as far back as Aristotle (who grounded practical reason in collective political life). But what is new in the past two decades is the precision with which the tasks of deliberation—notably, the legitimation of public authority, mutual understanding, and the integration of diverse sorts of knowledge—have been specified and tested…

The citizenry is quite capable of sound deliberation. But deliberative democratization will not just happen. Much remains to be done in refining the findings of the field and translating them into political practice. That political reconstruction itself would ideally be deliberative and democratic, involving social science but also competent citizens and leaders in broad-ranging political renewal.

Highly recommended, fairly lengthy reading. Hits my sweet spot. My "Ethics & Policy Studies" Master's program was all deliberation all the time, to my great fortune.

Citation links from the Science Magazine article on "Science of Deliberation."


How elite partisan polarization affects public opinion formation

JN Druckman, E Peterson, R Slothuus - American Political Science …, 2013 -
Competition is a defining element of democracy. One of the most noteworthy events over the 
last quarter-century in US politics is the change in the nature of elite party competition: The 
parties have become increasingly polarized. Scholars and pundits actively debate how 
these elite patterns influence polarization among the public (eg, have citizens also become 
more ideologically polarized?). Yet, few have addressed what we see as perhaps more 
fundamental questions: Has elite polarization altered the way citizens arrive at their policy


[HTML] Democracy for realists

CH Achen, LM Bartels - Democracy for Realists, 2017 -
Democracy for Realists assails the romantic folk-theory at the heart of contemporary thinking 
about democratic politics and government, and offers a provocative alternative view 
grounded in the actual human nature of democratic citizens.Christopher Achen and Larry 
Bartels deploy a wealth of social-scientific evidence, including ingenious original analyses 
of topics ranging from abortion politics and budget deficits to the Great Depression and 
shark attacks, to show that the familiar ideal of thoughtful citizens steering the ship of state


[HTML] Against democracy

J Brennan - Against Democracy, 2017 -
• I wrote about nineteen invited op-eds and magazine articles pointing out the flaws in 
democracy. There wasn't the same kind of interest in 2014 or 2012 when I was writing about 
this.• Similarly, I went on public radio to discuss my thesis that some voters should not vote. 
Listeners called in to say,“I know! What do we do?” I had done the same program on same 
topic a year before; then, listeners called in to demand,“How dare you?”• I had multiple 
media inquiries per day from October through December.


Democratic reason

H Landemore - Democratic Reason, 2012 -
Individual decision making can often be wrong due to misinformation, impulses, or biases. 
Collective decision making, on the other hand, can be surprisingly accurate. In Democratic 
Reason, Hélène Landemore demonstrates that the very factors behind the superiority of 
collective decision making add up to a strong case for democracy. She shows that the 
processes and procedures of democratic decision making form a cognitive system that 
ensures that decisions taken by the many are more likely to be right than decisions taken by


Human life is group life: deliberative democracy for realists

S Chambers - Critical Review, 2018 - Taylor & Francis
Skepticism about citizen competence is a core component of Christopher H. Achen and 
Larry M. Bartels's call, in Democracy for Realists, for rethinking our model of democracy. In 
this paper I suggest that the evidence for citizen incompetence is not as clear as we might 
think; important research shows that we are good group problem solvers even if we are poor 
solitary truth seekers. I argue that deliberative democracy theory has a better handle on this 
fundamental fact of human cognition and therefore has a more realistic view of the


[BOOK] The Oxford handbook of deliberative democracy

A Bächtiger, JS Dryzek, J Mansbridge, ME Warren - 2018 -
Deliberative democracy has been one of the main games in contemporary political theory for 
two decades, growing enormously in size and importance in political science and many 
other disciplines. The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy takes stock of 
deliberative democracy as a research field, in philosophy, in various research programmes 
in the social sciences and law, and in political practice around the globe. It provides a 
concise history of deliberative ideals in political thought and discusses their philosophical …


[BOOK] Politics with the people: Building a directly representative democracy

MA Neblo, KM Esterling, DMJ Lazer - 2018 -
Many citizens in the US and abroad fear that democratic institutions have become weak, and 
continue to weaken. Politics with the People develops the principles and practice of'directly 
representative democracy'-a new way of connecting citizens and elected officials to improve 
representative government. Sitting members of Congress agreed to meet with groups of their 
constituents via online, deliberative town hall meetings to discuss some of the most 
important and controversial issues of the day. The results from these experiments reveal a …


Deliberative abilities and influence in a transnational deliberative poll (EuroPolis)

M Gerber, A Bächtiger, S Shikano, S Reber… - British Journal of …, 2018 -
This article investigates the deliberative abilities of ordinary citizens in the context of 
'EuroPolis', a transnational deliberative poll. Drawing upon a philosophically grounded 
instrument, an updated version of the Discourse Quality Index (DQI), it explores how capable 
European citizens are of meeting deliberative ideals; whether socio-economic, cultural and 
psychological biases affect the ability to deliberate; and whether opinion change results from 
the exchange of arguments. On the positive side, EuroPolis shows that the ideal deliberator


The emancipatory effect of deliberation: Empirical lessons from mini-publics

S Niemeyer - Politics & Society, 2011 -
This article investigates the prospects of deliberative democracy through the analysis of 
small-scale deliberative events, or mini-publics, using empirical methods to understand the 
process of preference transformation. Evidence from two case studies suggests that 
deliberation corrects preexisting distortions of public will caused by either active 
manipulation or passive overemphasis on symbolically potent issues. Deliberation corrected 
these distortions by reconnecting participants' expressed preferences to their underlying


Framing and deliberation: How citizens' conversations limit elite influence

JN Druckman, KR Nelson - American journal of political …, 2003 - Wiley Online Library
Public opinion research demonstrates that citizens' opinions depend on elite rhetoric and 
interpersonal conversations. Yet, we continue to have little idea about how these two forces 
interact with one another. In this article, we address this issue by experimentally examining 
how interpersonal conversations affect (prior) elite framing effects. We find that 
conversations that include only common perspectives have no effect on elite framing, but 
conversations that include conflicting perspectives eliminate elite framing effects. We also


[HTML] Does enclave deliberation polarize opinions?

K Grönlund, K Herne, M Setälä - Political Behavior, 2015 - Springer
When like-minded people discuss with each other, ie engage in 'enclave deliberation', their 
opinions tend to become more extreme. This is called group polarization. A population-
based experiment with a pre-test post-test design was conducted to analyze whether the 
norms and procedures of deliberation interfere with the mechanisms of group polarization. 
Based on a survey, people with either permissive or restrictive attitudes toward immigration 
were first identified and then invited to the experiment. The participants were randomly


[BOOK] Democratic Deliberation in Deeply Divided Societies:: From Conflict to Common Ground

E Ugarriza, D Caluwaerts - 2014 -
Through case-analysis and cross-sectional assessment of eleven countries this collection 
explores the most deeply divided societies in the world in order to highlight what deliberative 
democracy looks like in a deeply divided society and to understand the conditions that 
deliberative democracies could realistically emerge in difficult circumstances


[BOOK] Democracy when the people are thinking: Revitalizing our politics through public deliberation

JS Fishkin - 2018 -
Democracy requires a connection to the'will of the people'. What does that mean in a world 
of'fake news', relentless advocacy, dialogue mostly among the like-minded, and massive 
spending to manipulate public opinion? What kind of opinion can the public have under 
such conditions? What would democracy be like if the people were really thinking in depth 
about the policies they must live with? If they really'deliberated'with good information about 
their political choices? This book argues that'deliberative democracy'is not utopian. It is a


Public deliberation in an era of communicative plenty

SA Ercan, CM Hendriks, JS Dryzek - Policy & politics, 2019 -
This article introduces and develops the concept of'communicative plenty'to capture the 
implications of the increasing volume of communication, both online and face-to-face, in 
contemporary democracies. Drawing on recent systems thinking in deliberative democracy, 
the article argues that communicative plenty can offer a viable context for large-scale public 
deliberation provided that: i) the spaces for voice and expression are accompanied by 
sufficient spaces of reflection and listening; and that ii) collective decisions involve


Fighting misinformation on social media using crowdsourced judgments of news source quality

G Pennycook, DG Rand - Proceedings of the National …, 2019 - National Acad Sciences
Reducing the spread of misinformation, especially on social media, is a major challenge. We 
investigate one potential approach: having social media platform algorithms preferentially 
display content from news sources that users rate as trustworthy. To do so, we ask whether 
crowdsourced trust ratings can effectively differentiate more versus less reliable sources. We 
ran two preregistered experiments (n= 1,010 from Mechanical Turk and n= 970 from Lucid) 
where individuals rated familiarity with, and trust in, 60 news sources from three

More on this ASAP. We're flying home today from closing on our new digs in Baltimore. Moving truck comes to CA next Friday. About to leave for BWI. Hotspotting off my iPhone at my new kitchen nook.


Finished this book. Quick cite:

…[E]ven as networks of interactions between humans change, much about them is enduring and predictable. Understanding human networks, as well as how they are changing, can help us to answer many questions about our world, such as: How does a person’s position in a network determine their influence and power? What systematic errors do we make when forming opinions based on what we learn from our friends? How do financial contagions work and why are they different from the spread of a flu? How do splits in our social networks feed inequality, immobility, and polarization. How is globalization changing international conflict and wars?
Despite their prominent role in the answers to these questions, human networks are often overlooked when people analyze important political and economic behaviors and trends. This is not to say that we have not been studying networks, but instead that there is a chasm between our scientific knowledge of networks as drivers of human behavior and what the general public and policymakers know. This book is meant to help close that gap.

Each chapter shows how accounting for networks of human relationships changes our thinking about an issue. Thus, the theme of this book is how networks enhance our understanding of many of our social and economic behaviors.

There are a few key patterns of networks that matter, and so the story here involves more than just one idea hammered home. By the end of this book, you should be more keenly aware of the importance of several aspects of the networks in which you live. Our discussion will also involve two different perspectives: one is how networks form and why they exhibit certain key patterns, and the other is how those patterns determine our power, opinions, opportunities, behaviors, and accomplishments…
[pp 4-5]
Awesome read. Much triangulation to come, ASAP.

Dr. Jackson in closing:
The more things change
Technology will continue to advance and reshape our networks. Humans have been rewired many times: by the printing press, letter writing, trains, the telegraph, overseas travel, the telephone, the Internet, and the advent of social media. Perhaps it is our arrogance that leads us to assume that the current changes in our lives are truly revolutionary and unique.

Nonetheless, the changes are real— as we saw with networks of trade and military alliances. Still, humans are predictable. Human networks are easily recognizable and have exhibited regularities for some time. In our social transformations we see “more” of many things: denser networks, more homophily, more polarization, faster movement of information and contagion. And, as we have learned, even small changes in connectedness can have big consequences. Even changes in the extent, rather than the shape, of our networks can have profound implications— for contagion, immobility, and polarization.

There is much to be optimistic about. Economic productivity is at a historic high, large parts of the world are emerging from extreme poverty, and wars are down. People are living longer and enjoying themselves more. But there are challenges ahead. Divisions in our networks of interaction and communication remain, and some are even growing despite our advances in the ability to connect at a distance. The resulting frustration with increased immobility and inequality, when combined with growing polarization, can be volatile.

We need to better understand the benefits and risks from ever increasing financial entanglements and address those risks rather than ignoring them. We need to recognize that our network is highly connected when it comes to the transmission of diseases, including some that we have yet to encounter and that may spread more rapidlyand widely than in our worst nightmares. We need to recognize the numerous externalities in our lives, as well as how networks shape our social norms and behaviors, including corruption and crime.

We need to combat the damaging side- effects of homophily, as well as improve the incentives to collect and spread accurate and deep information, while learning to better filter the noise. Understanding the human network can ensure that our increased connectivity will improve our collective intelligence and productivity, instead of dividing society even more.
[pp 239-40]
Could not be more timely.

Topical downstream links: "Define 'science'."Also, what about "Democracy?" Also, is there a "Science of Science Communication"?



More to come...

No comments:

Post a Comment