Rational and Compassionate Information Processing: A Conceptual Framework for Authentic Dialogue

Date01 November 2014
Published date01 November 2014
and the
Taehyon Choi is assistant professor
of public administration and policy in the
Graduate School of Public Administration
at Seoul National University. His current
research focuses on learning and decision
making in collaborative governance, trust,
citizen participation, and deliberation.
E-mail: taehyon@snu.ac.kr
726 Public Administration Review • November | December 2014
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 6, pp. 726–735. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12277.
Rosemary O’Leary, Editor
Taehyon Choi
Seoul National University, South Korea
Authentic dialogue is a key component of deliberative
democracy. Public administration scholars and practi-
tioners have focused on institutional settings for authentic
dialogue, but they have paid less attention to behavioral
aspects, especially the emotional component, of authentic
dialogue.  e author proposes a conceptual framework
for authentic dialogue that highlights the three dimen-
sions of its social-behavioral foundation: epistemic, social,
and compassionate information processing motivation.
e article reviews the discourse on authentic dialogue
in public administration and provides a conceptual
framework for authentic dialogue, with a discussion of
the three behavioral dimensions, their relationships, and
their ef‌f ects.  is framework may be used in empirical
analysis of authentic dialogue and the design of institu-
tions for deliberative democracy.
Many scholars have emphasized the impor-
tance of authentic dialogue for successful
democratic decision making in various
settings, such as collaborative governance and plan-
ning (Fung and Wright 2001; Healey 2006; Innes
and Booher 2010; Roberts 2002). Researchers argue
that public decision making will be democratic,
rational, and desirable when stakeholders success-
fully engage in authentic dialogue. Without authentic
dialogue, public deliberation easily dissolves into
political co-optation or mere negotiation of interests
(Innes and Booher 2010).  erefore, researchers view
authentic dialogue as crucial to successful deliberative
e public administration literature on authen-
tic dialogue has paid attention to the institutional
settings utilized to facilitate public deliberation,
including diversity, leadership, freedom from external
control, and equal opportunity to participate (see
Fishkin 1995; Gastil and Levine 2005;  ompson
2008; Weeks 2000). Compared with the attention
given to the institutional side of authentic dialogue,
however, less attention has been devoted to the
nature of human communicative behaviors in terms
of dialogue. It is implicitly assumed that when the
ideal institutional settings for authentic dialogue are
met, the conversation among stakeholders will move
closer to authentic dialogue. Although this assump-
tion could be true, treating the human behavioral
dimension as a black box has inhibited scholars from
developing a more sophisticated understanding of
authentic dialogue.  e social psychology literature
has revealed many information processing biases and
overarching motivations that could prevent partici-
pants from engaging in authentic dialogue even in
the absence of institutional constraints (Brodbeck
et al. 2007; De Dreu, Nijstad, and Van Knippenberg
2008). Rigorous research about information process-
ing calls our attention to these biases and the need to
understand human nature in communication and its
ef‌f ects on authentic dialogue and public deliberation.
Furthermore, while focusing on reasoned delibera-
tion for collective decision making, the literature on
authentic dialogue has not adequately considered
the emotional aspect of authentic dialogue. Young
criticizes contemporary deliberation theories for being
biased toward the modern Western style of speech,
which values being “dispassionate and disembodied”
(1997, 64).  e increasing interest in the role of
compassion (Tsui 2013) provides insight into theori-
zation of the emotional aspect of authentic dialogue.
Compassion may function in a collective decision-
making situation in which a complex societal problem
is confronted in such a way that stakeholders need an
“emotional rather than a logical choice or commit-
ment” (Barbalet 1998, 48).  is type of af‌f ective con-
sideration of others’ preferences also encompasses the
concept of authentic dialogue, as it is often described
by terms such as “open-mindedness,” “egalitarian,”
and “care.”
In this article, we propose a conceptual framework for
authentic dialogue that considers epistemic, social,
and compassionate information processing as three
dimensions of dialogue that incorporate reason and
emotion. First, we review the literature on authentic
dialogue, distinguishing the concept of authentic
Rational and Compassionate Information Processing:
A Conceptual Framework for Authentic Dialogue

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