IGSD Brown Bag Lunch
What does talk have to do with decision satisfaction?
Thomas Webler Social and Environmental Research Institute (SERI)
Abstract: Our research explores the connection between the process for making a decision and the satisfaction that people have with the final decision. Making decisions in a democratic society about managing the environment or managing risks usually ends up displeasing some interest groups while pleasing others and yet, without widespread acceptance, decisions can be stalled in court or stymied outright. To improve democratic acceptance of decisions, regulatory bodies strive to broadly involve the interested and affected parties in dialogue and incorporate their input. While there is much advice from conflict resolution and public participation practitioners on how to do this well, there is little scientific understanding of how people judge the quality of these dialogues and how those judgments, in turn, affect the acceptance of decisions. In this talk, I report on how participants come to their beliefs about the fairness and competence of dialogue in a public participatory decision-making process. Experimental studies have suggested that there is a fair-process effect; people who think the discussion was fair are more willing to accept the resulting decision, even if they suffer negatively because of it. Theory suggests a comparable link between participants’ perceived competence of a dialogue and decision acceptance. By measuring specific qualities of the communication within these processes, we will test these theories and draw conclusions about how government agencies can better satisfy the expectations and needs of interested and affected parties and, thereby, produce decisions with higher democratic legitimacy.
October 5, 2011