Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 April 2015
We present a model and a laboratory experiment on the informativeness of debate, varying both informational and institutional variables. The informational variable we focus on is a novel factor affecting the extent to which audience members can learn from exposure to unpersuasive arguments. The more easily a listener can learn from an argument she finds unpersuasive, the greater the risk that the speaker will alienate this listener when she fails to persuade her. We find a strong interaction between speakers’ responsiveness to that risk and the institutions of debate. When listeners can learn from unpersuasive arguments, many speakers are discouraged from attempting persuasion, irrespective of the debate rules we consider. In contrast, when listeners cannot learn from unpersuasive arguments, debate rules affect speakers’ willingness to engage in persuasion.
Eric S. Dickson (email@example.com), Catherine Hafer (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Dimitri Landa (email@example.com) are Associate Professors in the Department of Politics, New York University, 19 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012. The authors benefitted from comments from Sandy Gordon, Rebecca Morton, seminar participants at the UC Berkeley, Paris School of Economics, University of Virginia, and Vanderbilt University, and audiences and discussants at the meetings of APSA, MPSA, The Public Choice Society, and SAET. We thank Dominik Duell and Marlene Guraieb for excellent research assistance. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2015.6
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