The Public Dialogue Psychology Collaboratory provides psychological resources to support the dialogue between citizens and their governments. The point of departure for PDPC is there is a world of difference between public opinion and public dialogue.
Within the collaboratory we are developing dialogical methods which work with citizens, civil society, practitioners, policy-makers and politicians, to promote understanding and dialogue.
PDPC was established in 2020. It operates in a time when the political fortunes of the public are on the rise, there exists mechanisms of direct democracy (from single-issue referendum votes, to expressing opinions on social media) at the same time citizenship capacity is growing with flattened timespace allowing us to connect and develop ideas with other people across the globe. These new dynamics in dialogue and democracy lead to powerful collective actions, yet they also lead to some voices being silenced or overlooked, increased polarisation and inability to sustain dialogue with one another.
Public opinion data is gathered in fast-moving cycles often commissioned by political groups or large media consortia. This involves remote on-line methodologies and closed response questions where participants cannot express their own unique responses. This can mean public opinion data is at the behest of whatever binaries the researchers are committed to when presenting this as a source of knowledge on the public. Be it voting intentions, trust in governments or attitudes towards immigration - public opinion data risks becoming a technocratic proxy for the worldviews of the public.
Public opinion data is released into the public sphere in fast news cycles which can dominate the narrative of a breaking story. A democratic risk is that such public opinion data can easily be understood by everyone as a quick gauge on what the public really think about any given issue.
What we do
Within PDPC, we supplement the gathering of public opinion and attitudinal data with techniques and methods to understand and promote public dialogue. We do not work with existing binaries but rather work along a spectrum of positions for example our samples include citizens with differing degrees of migration-mobility rather than migrants and non-migrants. Our use of the term citizen, refers to a psychological capacity, rather than an individual socio-legal status.
Our methods involve stimulus-led narrative techniques, and pairing techniques. PDPC takes a dialogical approach which understands citizens as dialogical citizens capable of taking a variety of positions on any given issue. This approach also affords the capacity to understand why citizens align with specific groups or the wider public. What motivates them and sustains them when engaged in collective action.
Public Dialogue and Common Sense.
Equally this approach understands that prevailing common-sense can position and categorize people in ways that are an obstacle to dialogue. We therefore spend time working on understanding how common-sense is being used when citizens talk . Our approach to understanding common-sense is known as the social representations approach and our approach to citizens draws heavily on theories about the dialogical self.
As a result of this multi-faceted approach, PDPC can offer a richer, more carefully calibrated account of the public’s outlook to stakeholders; be it other citizens, civil society organisations or political actors. Equally PDPC conducts research with politicians and policy-makers and the development of terms of reference of policy areas. Appreciating citizens as having political capacities and politicians has being ultimately human. PDPC engages in policy-proofing by facilitating members of the public to debate the key concepts and terms of reference that are being used by governments on the area in question. We work with vexed political areas where consensus is not easily achieved and may not even be desirable. We work on both consensus and dissensus as being vital to effective democratic decision-making. Current projects include citizen worldviews on international relations, led by Kesi Mahendran, the political decision-making of the so-called Silent Generation, led by Sue Nieland and consensus and dissensus in decision-making on UK-Global relations, led by Anthony English.
On this site you will find a wealth of resources to support the advancement of public dialogue.