Professor Dr. John Gastil of the Penn State University Department of Communication Arts and Sciences has posted Cultural Cognition and the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review, at Cultural Cognition Blog.
In this post Professor Gastil describes the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review (Oregon CIR), an innovative small-group deliberation process in which a random sample of Oregon citizens devotes five days to studying a ballot measure in-depth. The citizens then write an evaluation of the measure that will appear in the official Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet, so that voters can learn from the citizens’ evaluation.
Professor Gastil explains how, through participation in the Oregon CIR process, citizens move beyond ideologically based political positions to a better informed and more sophisticated understanding of the issues.
Cultural cognition means:
the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities.
Dr. Gastil summarizes the lessons learned from the Oregon CIR so far:
There are many successful public deliberation processes, and the Oregon CIR represents a newer kind that aims to use small group deliberation to inform the discretion of a mass public. [...] So far, the evidence is encouraging: With enough care and resources, one can create an intensive deliberative process that appears to get lay citizens past both crude heuristics and more elaborate, but ideologically-motivated reasoning.
Those who work in political communication professionally are right to be concerned that processes like the CIR operate beyond their control. This year, as in 2010, I suspect we will see capable advocates and opponents make their case to the citizen panelists, but the outcome will hinge not on the balance of ideological bias (which is roughly even in Oregon) but on the quality of argument, reasoning, and evidence presented.
For more information, please see the complete post.
Click here for more information on the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review process.
Click here for more information on the 2012 Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review.
Click here for more information on Cultural Cognition.
Disclosure: I am a member of a research team led by Professor Gastil that is studying the 2010 and 2012 Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Reviews.