Deliberation and Voting: The Effects of Winning and Losing and Empathy on Deliberative Reciprocity

24 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012 Last revised: 27 Aug 2012

Michael E. Morrell

University of Connecticut

Date Written: 2012


Deliberative democracy offers one of the most fruitful areas for developing connections between normative theory and empirical research, from which the discipline of political science can only benefit (for some examples among the many that available see Barabas 2004; Delli Carpini, Cook, & Jacobs 2004; Gastil 2004; Luskin, Fishkin, & Jowell 2002; Mendelberg 2002; Mutz 2006; Neblo 2005; Rosenberg 2005; Trenél 2009; and Walsh 2004 and 2006). Some democratic theorists have concluded that, theoretically, deliberative democracy has now fully developed (e.g., Chambers 2003), but the empirical question of what contributes to successful deliberation is still an open one. In this paper, I attempt to bring together normative theory and empirical research to gain a better understanding of deliberation. I do so by examining one particular condition that I believe must exist if deliberative publics are to count as deliberative: reciprocity. In the present studies, I examine what influence empathy and winning and losing have on participants’ perceptions of reciprocity and their commitment to further deliberation. Research from social psychology on biases demonstrate how they threaten reciprocity, and thus, successful deliberation. I argue that the process model of empathy I have developed elsewhere (Morrell 2010) offers one of the best models to test whether empathy can help overcome these biases. It also provides a finer understanding of empathy so that we can evaluate its various components. I also posit that winning and losing at the end of deliberation should have a significant effect on perceptions of reciprocity. While there is still much work we must do to discover the best ways to insure reciprocity, I provide an initial assessment demonstrating the empathy and winning and losing have significant impacts on deliberative reciprocity. It is my hope that the findings of these experiments will aid both theorists and empirical researchers in understanding the complex nature of deliberation. This understanding is vital for without reciprocity, deliberation simply cannot exist.

Keywords: deliberation, empathy

Suggested Citation

Morrell, Michael E., Deliberation and Voting: The Effects of Winning and Losing and Empathy on Deliberative Reciprocity (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Michael E. Morrell (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut ( email )

Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States

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