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How can we improve deliberative reason? A meta-analysis of minipublic deliberation

Simon Niemeyer and Francesco Veri (University of Canberra)

Tue 24 November 2020

11:00am - 12:00pm

Virtual seminar

Seminar recording is available on our YouTube channel.


This paper investigates influences on public reasoning on political issues within deliberative minipublics. It does so via a multi-level study of 20 minipublic cases and 480 individuals, using a Deliberative Reason Index (DRI). DRI captures how deliberating groups construct a shared understanding of an issue and integrate relevant arguments into their various positions. It is consistent with deliberative ideals, versus selective reasoning pathologies such as confirmation bias. Overall, we find that minipublic deliberation results in dramatically improved reasoning. Reasoning is best facilitated by designs that focus on establishing group deliberative norms, particularly for complex issues. By contrast, processes designed to directly impact decision-making and short cut wider public discussion fare relatively poorly. The impact of demographic variables is complex, with interaction effects operating. Overall, the results are consistent with recent developments in how we understand human reasoning, and the roles of situation and emotions. They bring into question some common claims regarding deliberative design and have wider practical implications for improving public reasoning.

About the speakers

Simon Niemeyer is Professor and co-founder of the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance. His research ties together the themes of political behaviour, the public sphere and observations from deliberative minipublics, such as Citizens’ Juries, to develop insights into potential interventions and institutional settings that improve deliberation and governance.

Francesco Veri is a Postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra. Francesco is also a member of the Lucerne Cluster for Configurational Methods (LUCCS) which regroup scholars who make major contributions to social science methodology at the crossroads between quantitative and qualitative research.

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