Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Deliberative discourse practices in Slovenia's formal and non-formal public spheres

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
5.06.03  Social sciences  Political science  Communication science 

Code Science Field
S265  Social sciences  Press and communication sciences 

Code Science Field
5.06  Social Sciences  Political science 
Deliberative democracy, deliberative discourse, public sphere, group deliberation, parliament, attachment styles, attitudes
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (8)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  22286  PhD Metka Kuhar  Psychology  Head  2013 - 2016  631 
2.  30964  PhD Boris Mance  Political science  Technical associate  2016  40 
3.  35112  MSc Marjeta Novak  Political science  Researcher  2013 - 2016  38 
4.  19074  PhD Gregor Petrič  Sociology  Researcher  2013 - 2016  261 
5.  27574  PhD Andraž Petrovčič  Sociology  Researcher  2014 - 2016  290 
6.  27578  PhD Andreja Vezovnik  Culturology  Researcher  2015  246 
7.  36855  Mira Vončina    Technical associate  2014 - 2015 
8.  30703  PhD Rok Zupančič  Political science  Researcher  2013 - 2015  231 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0582  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences  Ljubljana  1626957  40,399 
Background In contemporary societies there is a growing need to coordinate and legitimize different perspectives. Instead of a dialogical search for consensus polarizing communication still prevails. The legitimacy of formal political institutions and conventional forms of political participation is in decline; increasingly publicly expressed people's need for a greater influence on social developments reveals a deficit in approaches how to include them more actively in discussions on complex social problems. There has been a growing number of theoretical and empirical appeals to advance deliberation within governmental bodies and public institutions, as well as in a form of direct citizen involvement in (organized) face-to-face meetings. Yet, no radical shift has been made (so far), largely due to poor understanding of subjective and intersubjective (psychological) aspects of deliberation. Problem definition The project primarily aims at exploring the communicative and psychological aspects of deliberation. The main aim is to contribute to the theory and practice of deliberative democracy with improving the understanding of psychological factors on deliberative processes and outcomes. This is particularly challenging in Slovenia as a post-transition country with a relatively short democratic tradition, a history of unique Yugoslav system of self-management and underdeveloped deliberative theory and practice. Objectives The key research objectives are the following: 1. analysis of until now unstudied influence of attachment dimensions on the quality of deliberation and on the readiness to transform and coordinate attitudes with others in a deliberative process 2. analysis of deliberative discourse quality within the two main types of civic deliberation: among politicians, i.e. representatives within the formal institutional contexts and among citizens within the informal public sphere; 3. analysis of influence of expert facilitation on the attachment styles, the quality of deliberative discourse and readiness to change and coordinate attitudes in small-group deliberations within informal public sphere. Research methods Work on the project will be divided into two modules. The first module will analyse the quality of deliberation on selected topics within the bicameral Parliament. The second module will analyse the quality of deliberation in deliberative processes among citizens; the basic instruments and the topics will be the same as in the first module; we will also use and develop additional measuring instruments (group attachment styles, attitudes, self-perception of individual and group deliberativeness). In the conceptualization and operationalization of deliberativeness we follow the established set of basic and extended deliberative standards. According to recent calls for analysing the so-called irrational elements whose persuasive effect is dependent on the specific context in which they occur, we will also develop our own model of additional discourse-pragmatic analysis. Data will be analysed by multivariate statistical methods. Relevance The project derives from the increasing awareness that formal and civil society organizations need to transform their practices to encourage the involvement of all social groups and individuals who are long term and significantly affected by the consequences of decisions, and awareness of the necessary strengthening of deliberative competence of all (potential) actors in the public formal and informal public sphere, particularly in times of economic and social crisis. The project is an example of the inter-sectorial linking of the research, public and economic spheres. It will contribute to the elimination of weaknesses in the developing and facilitating deliberative processes, both through an in-depth understanding of the psychological and interpersonal characteristics of the participants as well as mediation practices.
Significance for science
The Deliberative Discursive Practices in Slovenian Formal and Informal Public Spheres Project was divided into two parts for the purpose of researching communicological-psychological aspects of deliberation. The first part analysed deliberation quality in the Slovenian Parliament (i.e. the formal public sphere) as the main decision-making body in discussions on the topic of the Family Code (FC). The second part analysed the influence of facilitation and attachment styles on attitude change in deliberative discussions in an informal environment, using the cases of discussions among primary school teachers on the topic of school disciplinary measures. The study’s first part investigated the influence of different institutions (National Assembly, National Council and National Council's Commission for Social Care, Labour, Health and the Disabled) and factors related to individual discussants in parliamentary discussions that have so far received little research attention on deliberative discussion quality: from different aspects of institutions’ influence (e.g. in which phase of the legislative procedure, which institution the discussants represented etc.) through to the analysis of individual statements (e.g. whether a discussant was in favour or against the FC, the length of a statement, the statement’s occurrence within a specific legislative procedure phase). For the purpose of analysing the deliberativeness of the discourse in parliamentary discussions, the Discourse Quality Index was substantially upgraded in all its key dimensions (participation, justification, disrespect) and further expanded in alternative communication forms dimensions (story-telling and deliberative negotiations). The upgraded codebook will thus add significantly to further scientific analyses of discourse quality in (parliamentary) discussions. The results confirmed the expected relatively low level of deliberativeness in the Slovenian Parliament, whereby the quality of argumentation in the National Assembly and the National Council was higher than that in the National Council's Commission for Social Care, Labour, Health and the Disabled. The project’s second part focussed on facilitation effects and analysed the differences between facilitated and non-facilitated groups in terms of deliberative quality and attitude change. Theoretical premises and studies on the role of facilitation in deliberative discussions were reviewed and different types of facilitation and their effects identified. We found that, in the framework of theories on deliberative democracy and the operationalisations of deliberation, the importance of facilitation is recognised and the need for empirical research on the effects of different facilitation types in deliberative discussions is acknowledged. Moreover, we analysed the influence of psychological factors (e.g. attachment styles, initial attitudes and group influences), both independently and in relation to facilitation, on attitude changes and the self-assessment of deliberative quality in individuals and groups. New measurement instruments had to be developed for this purpose, based on the existing ones, namely for self-perception of deliberativeness, satisfaction with facilitation and discussion, as well as for measuring discussion-group attachment styles. These instruments are considered important scientific contributions to further empirical research in the field deliberation. The results presented in scientific articles, which are currently in the review processes, made up for the already recognised lack of tests of the role of facilitation as well as personal and group psychological factors in deliberative discussions.
Significance for the country
In the Slovenian context, the Deliberative Discursive Practices in Slovenian Formal and Informal Public Spheres Project delivers a pioneering analysis of selected examples of deliberative discourse quality in two main public deliberation types – among politicians or representatives in a formal institutional context (Slovenian Parliament) and in an informal public sphere (primary school teachers’ deliberative discussions on school disciplinary measures). In our opinion, the first part of the project resulted in the first analysis of deliberation on the topic of LGBTQ ever and the first analysis of deliberation quality in the Slovenian Parliament, with an emphasis on deliberative standards measured by the Discourse Quality Index. The results confirmed the expected relatively low deliberative quality level. The quantitative analysis was upgraded with a qualitative analysis, thus showing more details of the manner of argumentation and the arguments’ substance. Opponents of the FC perceived homosexuality as unnatural and built their arguments on essentialism and/or moralist-religious principles, biologically-determinist ideas and nationalism. They chiefly referred to their expert sources, common-sense and majority beliefs in society. Those advocating the FC mainly substantiated their reasoning with legal, sociological and psychological arguments, emphasising values of liberalism, tolerance, equality, freedom and human rights. The project contributed to the scientific study of deliberation and also substantively addressed the LGBTQ topic in the context of the Slovenian Parliament. Besides testing the role of facilitation and the influence of different personal and group psychological aspects on deliberation through primary school teachers’ deliberative discussions, the project’s second part substantially investigated school disciplinary measures. Two group deliberations were conducted in each of 13 primary schools: one facilitated (led by a professional facilitator who applied specially adjusted principles) and the other non-facilitated. All discussions were deliberative in the sense that in the last part of the discussion the participants of each group gathered proposals for how their school, the support institutions and the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport could (better) support them regarding school disciplinary measures. We communicated the teachers’ recommendations to school managements and reported them to the professional community in different ways, among others at the Slovenian National Education Institute’ conference. A symposium was organised as part of the project, Strategies of school disciplinary conduct of primary school teachers, attended by 20 primary school headmasters, counsellors, teachers and other school education stakeholders. The second part of the project constitutes a practical application of the deliberative democracy ideal, which manifests itself relatively rarely in the Slovenian environment. To interweave theory and practice as well as the science and the business sector, a symposium was organised within the project, entitled Dialogue and deliberation as approaches that support the multi-stakeholder resolving of complex challenges on social, organisational and interpersonal levels. The symposium gathered theoreticians and practitioners of dialogue communications, deliberative and other approaches from various fields and facilitated knowledge exchange and mutual learning among researchers, representatives of political institutions as well as business and non-governmental organisations. Moreover, the project represents an important contribution to the developing profession of facilitation in Slovenia, as we closely co-operated with the Slovenian Association of Facilitators and developed the criteria for assessing facilitated processes’ quality to directly improve the quality of facilitation processes.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2013, 2014, 2015, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2013, 2014, 2015, final report
Views history