In this study, we unite two experimental traditions to examine the impact of discursive processes on political decision making. We directly manipulate the presence and timing of discussion in the “divide-the-dollar” game to assess the effects of discussion on participants' allocations and perceptions of the game's legitimacy. To investigate the influence of structure, we also manipulate the presence of a majority/minority cleavage among participants. The dependent measures in all instances are the players' allocations, the outcome of the game, and psychometric indicators of legitimacy perceptions. Results indicate that the presence of discussion can generate outcomes that are perceived as more equitable and fair in some circumstances—namely, when a cleavage is present. These findings establish the utility of this paradigm, as well as an important baseline for assessing the probable impacts of proposals to integrate deliberation into political decision making.
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