Published on July 28, 2010

How much disagreement is good for deliberation?

Several well respected US academics working in the dialogue field have this month published a paper that asks How Much Disagreement is Good for Democratic Deliberation?

The paper poses as its central 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?”

Using data from the CaliforniaSpeaks deliberation on healthcare reform, the paper produces a statistical model of deliberative quality against levels of disagreement.

As deliberation becomes increasingly mainstream, so too will research into what works and what doesn’t. The Sciencewise bulletin highlighted last month several active projects in the UK which seek to measure the quality of deliberation online and offline.

As the quality of deliberative research improves, it is likely that policy makers will increasingly trust deliberation as a method for developing policy. To understand how deliberation can be used as a tool for public dialogue visit Sciencewise’s guide: ‘What is dialogue?’

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