Hopes over fears: Can democratic deliberation increase positive emotions concerning the future?

Paper by S. Ahvenharju, M. Minkkinen, and F. Lalot: “Deliberative mini-publics have often been considered to be a potential way to promote future-oriented thinking. Still, thinking about the future can be hard as it can evoke negative emotions such as stress and anxiety. This article establishes why a more positive outlook towards the future can benefit long-term decision-making. Then, it explores whether and to what extent deliberative mini-publics can facilitate thinking about the future by moderating negative emotions and encouraging positive emotions. We analyzed an online mini-public held in the region of Satakunta, Finland, organized to involve the public in the drafting process of a regional plan extending until the year 2050. In addition to the standard practices related to mini-publics, the Citizens’ Assembly included an imaginary time travel exercise, Future Design, carried out with half of the participants. Our analysis makes use of both survey and qualitative data. We found that democratic deliberation can promote positive emotions, like hopefulness and compassion, and lessen negative emotions, such as fear and confusion, related to the future. There were, however, differences in how emotions developed in the various small groups. Interviews with participants shed further light onto how participants felt during the event and how their sentiments concerning the future changed…(More)”.

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