Motivated Reasoning in Political Information Processing: The Death Knell of Deliberative Democracy?

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 42 (4):511-542 (2012)
In this article, I discuss what motivated reasoning research tells us about the prospects for deliberative democracy. In section I, I introduce the results of several political psychology studies examining the problematic affective and cognitive processing of political information by individuals in nondeliberative, experimental environments. This is useful because these studies are often neglected in political philosophy literature. Section II has three stages. First, I sketch how the study results from section I question the practical viability of deliberative democracy. Second, I briefly present the results of three empirical studies of political deliberation that can be interpreted to counter the findings of the studies in section I. Third, I show why this is a misinterpretation and that the study results from section I mean that it is implausible that sites of political deliberation would naturally emerge from the wide public sphere and coalesce into institutionalized forms of the practice such that deliberative democracy can satisfy its raison d’être. Finally, in section III, I conclude that viable conceptions of deliberative democracy should be limited to narrower aims
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