Constructive vs Toxic Argumentation in Debates

31 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2023 Last revised: 23 May 2023

See all articles by Tymofiy Mylovanov

Tymofiy Mylovanov

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

Andy Zapechelnyuk

University of Edinburgh - School of Economics

Date Written: February 23, 2023

Abstract

Two debaters address an audience by sequentially choosing their information strategies. We compare the setting where the second mover reveals additional information (constructive argumentation) with the setting where the second mover obfuscates the first mover's information (toxic argumentation). We reframe both settings as constrained optimization of the first mover. We show that when the preferences are zero-sum or risk-neutral, constructive debates reveal the state, while toxic debates are completely uninformative. Moreover, constructive debates reveal the state under the assumption on preferences that capture autocratic regimes, whereas toxic debates are completely uninformative under the assumption on preferences that capture democratic regimes.

Keywords: information design, Bayesian persuasion, information structure, disclosure, obfuscation, garbling

JEL Classification: D82, D83, D72

Suggested Citation

Mylovanov, Tymofiy and Zapechelnyuk, Andriy, Constructive vs Toxic Argumentation in Debates (February 23, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4368306

Tymofiy Mylovanov

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics ( email )

4901 Wesley Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh
United States

Andriy Zapechelnyuk (Contact Author)

University of Edinburgh - School of Economics ( email )

31 Buccleuch Place
Edinburgh, EH8 9JT
United Kingdom

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