Making Talk Cheap (and Problems Easy): How Political and Legal Institutions Can Facilitate Consensus
38 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2010 Last revised: 30 Jun 2010
Date Written: June 30, 2010
In many 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. In this paper, we present a theory and 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 sending information to others 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.
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