Habermas in the Lab: A Study of Deliberation in an Experimental Setting

Tracy Sulkin, Adam F. Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study outlines a new paradigm for the investigation of the effects of deliberation on political decisions. Specifically, it uses the ultimatum game as a situation in which the opportunity to deliberate and the placement of this opportunity are experimentally manipulated. Structural factors, such as the players' roles and their ability to vote on the proposal being offered, are also manipulated as a basis for comparison. Two outcomes are examined: the games' allocations, and players' perceptions of fairness. After controlling for structural factors, deliberative opportunity creates a more equitable distribution of money and enhances fairness perceptions. However these results hold only when such an opportunity occurs before the proposal stage. Deliberative opportunity after the proposal stage has no discernible impact. A survey of participants found that their personal characteristics and political predispositions influence perceptions of fairness for proposers, but not for acceptors. These findings demonstrate the potential benefits of deliberation while highlighting the importance of the nature of its implementation in determining its level of success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-826
Number of pages18
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Experiments
  • Political deliberation
  • Ultimatum game

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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