We experimentally investigate the informational theory of legislative committees (Gilligan and Krehbiel 1989). Two committee members provide policy-relevant information to a legislature under alternative legislative rules. Under the open rule, the legislature is free to make any decision; under the closed rule, the legislature chooses between a member's proposal and a status quo. We find that even in the presence of biases, the committee members improve the legislature's decision by providing useful information. We obtain evidence for two additional predictions: the outlier principle, according to which more extreme biases reduce the extent of information transmission; and the distributional principle, according to which the open rule is more distributionally efficient than the closed rule. When biases are less extreme, we find that the distributional principle dominates the restrictive-rule principle, according to which the closed rule is more informationally efficient. Overall, our findings provide experimental support for Gilligan and Krehbiel's informational theory.
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