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Fast thinking: Implications for democratic politics

Abstract : Amajor programmeof research on cognition has been built around the idea that human beings are frequently intuitive thinkers and that human intuition is imperfect.The modern marketing of politics and the time-poor position ofmany citizens suggests that ‘fast’, intuitive, thinking in many contemporary democracies is ubiquitous. This article explores the consequences that such fast thinking might have for the democratic practice of contemporary politics. Using focus groups with a range of demographic profiles, fast thinking about how politics works is stimulated and followed by a more reflective and collectively deliberative form of slow thinking among the same participants.A strong trajectory emerges consistently in all groups in that in fast thinking mode participants are noticeably more negative and dismissive about the workings of politics than when in slow thinking mode.A fast thinking focus among citizens may be good enough to underwrite mainstream political exchange, but at the cost of supporting a general negativity about politics and the way it works. Yet breaking the cycle of fast thinking – as advocated by deliberation theorists – might not be straightforward because of the grip of fast thinking.The fast/slow thinking distinction, if carefully used,offers valuable new insight into political science.
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Gerry Stoker, Colin Hay, Matthew Barr. Fast thinking: Implications for democratic politics. European Journal of Political Research, 2016, 55 (1), pp.3-21. ⟨10.1111/1475-6765.12113⟩. ⟨hal-02186361⟩



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