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Published May 2011 | Published
Journal Article Open

An Experimental Study of Collective Deliberation


We study the effects of deliberation on collective decisions. In a series of experiments, we vary groups' preference distributions (between common and conflicting interests) and the institutions by which decisions are reached (simple majority, two-thirds majority, and unanimity). Without deliberation, different institutions generate significantly different outcomes, tracking the theoretical comparative statics. Deliberation, however, significantly diminishes institutional differences and uniformly improves efficiency. Furthermore, communication protocols exhibit an array of stable attributes: messages are public, consistently reveal private information, provide a good predictor for ultimate group choices, and follow particular (endogenous) sequencing.

Additional Information

© 2011 The Econometric Society. Manuscript received September, 2009; final revision received August, 2010. Article first published online: 4 May 2011. We thank a co-editor and three anonymous referees for very helpful comments. We also thank Gary Charness, Guillaume Frechette, Dino Gerardi, John Kagel, Alessandro Lizzeri, Tom Palfrey, and Lise Vesterlund for many useful conversations and suggestions. Lauren Feiler, Salvatore Nunnari, and Julian Romero provided us with superb research assistance. We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation (SES 0551014) and the European Research Council (ERC Advanced Grant, ESEI-249433).

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