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Committee Decisions under Majority Rule: An Experimental Study


  • Fiorina, Morris P.
  • Plott, Charles R.


This article reports the findings of a series of experiments on committee decision making under majority rule. The committee members had relatively fixed preferences, so that the process was one of making decisions rather than one of problem solving. The predictions of a variety of models drawn from Economics, Sociology, Political Science and Game Theory were compared to the experimental results. One predictive concept, the core of the noncooperative game without side payments (equivalent to the majority rule equilibrium) consistently performed best. Significantly, however, even when such an outcome did not exist, the experimental results did not display the degree of unpredictability that some theoretical work would suggest. An important subsidiary finding concerns the difference between experiments conducted under conditions of high stakes versus those conducted under conditions of much lower stakes. The findings in the two conditions differed considerably, thus calling into question the political applicability of numerous social psychological experiments in which subjects had little or no motivation.

Suggested Citation

  • Fiorina, Morris P. & Plott, Charles R., 1978. "Committee Decisions under Majority Rule: An Experimental Study," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(2), pages 575-598, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:72:y:1978:i:02:p:575-598_15

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