Opting in or Opting Out: The Conditions for Developing Consensus
University of California, Davis
Mathew D. McCubbins
Duke University School of Law
Daniel B. Rodriguez
Northwestern University - School of Law
University of Southern California - Department of Political Science; University of Southern California - School of International Relations
November 13, 2009
CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper
In legal, political, and social settings, people must reach a consensus before particular outcomes can be achieved and failing to reach a consensus may be costly. Although many scholars identify conditions that make consensus more or less likely, they typically ignore key features of communication that may affect a group’s ability to reach a consensus. In this paper, we conduct experiments that take into account the costs associated with communicating, as well as the difficulty of the decisions that groups make. We find that when there is even a small cost (relative to the potential benefit) associated with speaking and/or listening, groups are much less likely to reach a consensus, primarily because they are less willing to communicate with one another. We also find that difficult problems significantly reduce group members’ willingness to communicate with one another and, therefore, hinder their ability to reach a consensus.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Keywords: consensus, experiments, political communication
Date posted: July 16, 2009 ; Last revised: February 15, 2010
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