Assessing the difference critique of deliberation: Gender, emotion, and the jury experience

Andrea Hickerson, John Gastil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Despite increasing enthusiasm for political deliberation as a rejuvenating tonic for representative democracy, some theorists question the extent to which deliberative forums adequately incorporate diverse individuals and communication styles. Unfortunately, the theoretical debate between the deliberative theory and the "difference critique" has reached an impasse. To advance this important literature, we derive two formal propositions from each perspective and test these rival claims in the context of the jury system, the most prominent institutionalized deliberative practice in the United States. Surveys of over 3,000 jurors who served in local courthouses indicate that gender and other demographic differences are poor predictors of jurors' satisfaction with their service experience, including their perceptions of deliberation. The study also shows that emotion - a dimension of deliberative experience presumed to be gendered - is important for both men and women. On balance, the results call into question the power of the difference critique, at least in the context of modern jury deliberation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-303
Number of pages23
JournalCommunication Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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