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Framing Democracy:
A Behavioral Approach to Democratic Theory
Jamie Terence Kelly

Hardcover | 2012 | $42.00 | £34.95 | ISBN: 9780691155197
168 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 5 line illus.
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The past thirty years have seen a surge of empirical research into political decision making and the influence of framing effects--the phenomenon that occurs when different but equivalent presentations of a decision problem elicit different judgments or preferences. During the same period, political philosophers have become increasingly interested in democratic theory, particularly in deliberative theories of democracy. Unfortunately, the empirical and philosophical studies of democracy have largely proceeded in isolation from each other. As a result, philosophical treatments of democracy have overlooked recent developments in psychology, while the empirical study of framing effects has ignored much contemporary work in political philosophy. In Framing Democracy, Jamie Terence Kelly bridges this divide by explaining the relevance of framing effects for normative theories of democracy.

Employing a behavioral approach, Kelly argues for rejecting the rational actor model of decision making and replacing it with an understanding of choice imported from psychology and social science. After surveying the wide array of theories that go under the name of democratic theory, he argues that a behavioral approach enables a focus on three important concerns: moral reasons for endorsing democracy, feasibility considerations governing particular theories, and implications for institutional design. Finally, Kelly assesses a number of methods for addressing framing effects, including proposals to increase the amount of political speech, mechanisms designed to insulate democratic outcomes from flawed decision making, and programs of public education.

The first book to develop a behavioral theory of democracy, Framing Democracy has important insights for democratic theory, the social scientific understanding of political decision making, economics, and legal theory.


"This is an interesting new area of research that has not previously received any sustained treatment in the literature on normative democratic theory. . . . The book is clearly and tightly written. Kelly's discussions of the philosophical relevance of empirical findings are especially thoughtful. His command of the empirical literature on framing effects is impressive."--Christian Schemmel, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Framing Democracy is well written and logically organized. Scholars and graduate students interested in the literature of democratic theory will find much to debate in this thoughtful monograph."--Jeffrey D. Hilmer, Political Studies Review


"While it has long been recognized that framing plays a huge role in politics, it is only in recent years that normative democratic theorists have started incorporating this reality. This book will set the standard for this movement and become necessary reading not only for behavioral and philosophical scholars but for all political scientists."--James Druckman, Northwestern University

"Democratic theorists--and citizens of democracies in general--ignore this book at their own peril. The case for democracy depends upon its tendency to make good decisions. Yet, in this sober, rich, and authoritative study, Kelly shows us how one set of cognitive biases--framing effects--threatens to impede sound democratic decision making."--Jason Brennan, author of The Ethics of Voting

"Kelly's synthesis of empirical research on framing effects and normative political theory is impressive, providing the most persuasive integration of the two fields that I have seen. This is a strongly written, clear, and compelling book."--Paul Brewer, University of Delaware

Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Chapter One
Framing Effects 7

Chapter Two
Theories of Democracy 44

Chapter Three
Behavioral Democratic Theory 59

Chapter Four
Behavioral Democratic Theory Applied 74

Chapter Five
Institutional Implications 97

Conclusion 122

References 125
Index 149

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