Opting in or Opting Out: The Conditions for Developing Consensus

35 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009 Last revised: 15 Feb 2010

See all articles by Cheryl Boudreau

Cheryl Boudreau

University of California, Davis

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University

Daniel B. Rodriguez

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law

Nicholas Weller

University of California, Riverside (UCR)

Date Written: November 13, 2009

Abstract

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.

Keywords: consensus, experiments, political communication

Suggested Citation

Boudreau, Cheryl and McCubbins, Mathew D. and Rodriguez, Daniel B. and Weller, Nicholas, Opting in or Opting Out: The Conditions for Developing Consensus (November 13, 2009). CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1434121 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1434121

Cheryl Boudreau

University of California, Davis ( email )

One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
United States

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Daniel B. Rodriguez

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Nicholas Weller (Contact Author)

University of California, Riverside (UCR) ( email )

900 University Avenue
Riverside, CA 92521
United States

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